Ex-Bolivian Official's Bail Request Denied
(CN) - Bolivia's former anti-corruption chief will be held in the United States pending his trial for trying to extort $30,000 from expatriate businessman Humberto Roca, a magistrate judge ruled Monday.
The FBI arrested Mario Fabricio Ormachea Aliaga, a colonel in the Bolivian National Police, on Aug. 31 after a brief undercover operation.
Ormachea is accused of trying to shake down former Aerosur Airlines owner Humberto Roca for $30,000 in exchange for ending an "illegal enrichment" prosecution against Roca in his native Bolivia.
Roca's attorney, Michael Diaz Jr. of the Miami-based global firm Diaz Reus, characterized his prosecution as a politically motivated scheme hatched by Bolivian President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera.
Roca, who lives in South Florida and has applied for political asylum in the United States, contacted his attorney after Ormachea asked him to meet in Miami to discuss the unresolved charges against him in Bolivia, according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Jason May.
At Diaz's suggestion, Roca alerted law enforcement, who monitored and recorded Roca's two meetings with Ormachea in Miami, according to the affidavit.
During the second meeting on Aug. 31, Ormachea allegedly offered to drop the criminal charges against Roca in Bolivia for a fee of $30,000 and charge someone else instead. Ormachea threatened that, if Roca refused to pay, he would pursue Roca's arrest in the United States and extradition to Bolivia, the FBI said.
Roca gave Ormachea a $5,000 down payment provided by the FBI. Law enforcement and the FBI's violent crime task force followed and stopped Ormachea shortly thereafter and recovered the $5,000, according to the Sept. 4 affidavit.
During his interview at the FBI's Miami field office, Ormachea admitted he had met with Roca twice but denied attempting to extort him, according to the FBI.
Ormachea also said he had not traveled to the United States on official business.
Bolivia's deputy police chief, Gen. Juan Roberto Albarracin, told Reuters last week that Ormachea was a "deserter" and that his U.S. trip had not been officially approved.
"We have not been able to confirm what position he held or holds" in the Bolivian National Police, prosecutor John Byrne said in a statement.
"The FBI quickly moved in and arrested Ormachea Saturday, Aug. 31, after he received the extortion monies from Roca," Roca's attorney said in a press release. "This is continued proof of Roca's innocence. His business was taken from him for political reasons, forcing Roca and his family to flee his homeland. We will continue fighting to clear his name and recover the losses from the Bolivian government's illegal expropriation of Roca's assets."
Roca was stripped of his Bolivian citizenship after criticizing his government for its culture of corruption, lack of clear rules of law applied equally to all citizens, and its interference in private business, according to the press release.
Bolivia subsequently filed criminal charges against him and tried to expropriate his assets, including his 51 percent controlling interest in Aerosur Airlines.
Roca filed a lawsuit against Bolivia, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, and other parties in Miami Federal Court in December 2011, seeking an injunction and damages for arbitrary expropriation, conspiracy and breach of fiduciary duty.
"For speaking his mind, the government of Bolivia has effectively stripped him of his citizenship, has denied him even his basic human rights, has trumped up criminal charges against him, and has entered into a conspiracy with individuals (including family members and a trusted lawyer) in order to expropriate Roca's assets - including a 51 percent controlling interest in an airline worth tens of millions of dollars," the complaint states. (Parentheses in original).
Roca's federal lawsuit remains pending in the Southern District of Florida.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman refused to release Ormachea on bond Monday, finding that the government had proven Ormachea poses a flight risk and has no ties to Southern Florida.
"First, the weight of the evidence appears to be strong," Goodman wrote. "The government has proffered that there is video and audio evidence of the defendant extorting Mr. Roca. Second, the defendant has no ties, family or otherwise, to the Southern District of Florida. Rather, all of his ties are to Bolivia. Finally, given that the defendant either was, or is, a high-ranking official in Bolivia, there is a risk that he may reach out to any number of his colleagues there for help in returning to Bolivia."
Ormachea is scheduled to be formally charged on Tuesday and faces a possible five-year prison sentence if convicted.