Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Conspiracy Gives Way to Pleas on Bribery Charges

(CN) - Two men who conspired with an FBI agent to steal and sell government files on a "prominent" Bangladeshi politician have pleaded guilty to bribery in federal court.

Robert Lustyik Jr., a 24-year veteran of the FBI, allegedly sold confidential, internal law enforcement information to Rizve Ahmed, with the help of co-conspirator Johannes Thaler.

A native of Bangladesh, "Caesar" Ahmed sought information, including a suspicious activity report, on a "prominent Bangladeshi political figure who was affiliated with a political party opposing [his] views."

Federal prosecutors said "Ahmed sought, among other things, to obtain information about Individual 1, to locate Individual 1, and to harm Individual 1 and others associated with Individual 1."

Lustyik, of White Plains, N.Y., worked on the bureau's counterintelligence squad. Ahmed was an acquaintance of Thaler, Lustyik's childhood friend.

The alleged scheme spanned from September 2011 to March 2012.

"As part of the scheme, Thaler and Ahmed exchanged text messages, including text messages about a 'contract' the terms of which would require Ahmed to pay a $40,000 'retainer' and $30,000 'monthly' and, in return, Lustyik and Thaler would 'give [Ahmed] everything [they] ha[d] plus set up [Individual 1] and get the inside from the party," officials said.

Lustyik and Thaler also allegedly exchanged text messages about how to pressure Ahmed to pay them additional money.

Officials say Lustyik told Thaler, "[W]e need to push [Ahmed] for this meeting and get that 40 gs quick ... I will talk us into getting the cash ... I will work my magic ... We r sooooooo close." Thaler responded, "I know. It's all right there in front of us. Pretty soon we'll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant."

In 2012, upon learning that Ahmed was considering another source, Lustyik allegedly texted Thayler, "I want to kill [Ahmed] ... I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing? ... Tell [Ahmed], I've got [Individual 1's] number and I'm pissed ... I will put a wire on n get [Ahmed and his associates] to admit they want [a Bangladeshi political figure] offed n we sell it to [Individual 1]."

Lustyik added, "So bottom line. I need ten gs asap. We gotta squeeze C."

Lustyik and Thaler accepted at least $1,000 from Ahmed, prosecutors announced on Friday, and the pair schemed to take additional monthly bribes from him, in increments of tens of thousands of dollars "in exchange for additional confidential law enforcement information about Individual 1 and for assistance in having criminal charges against a Bangladeshi political figure dismissed."

For their roles, Thaler, 51, of New Fairfield, Conn, and Ahmed, 35, of Danbury, Conn., each pled guilty to one count of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services and wire fraud. Each faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.

The men are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2015.

Charges against Lustyik remain pending. His trial is slated for November 17.

Earlier this month, Lustyik, 51, separately pleaded guilty to an 11-count indictment charging him with conspiracy, eight counts of honest services wire fraud, obstruction of a grand jury proceeding, and obstruction of an agency proceeding.

Lustyik was charged in 2012, along with Thaler and Michael Taylor, the principal of Boston-based American International Security Corporation, of pushing contracts for security services, electric power and energy development in the Middle East and Africa.

Taylor, of Harvard, Mass., allegedly learned in 2011 that he was the subject of a federal criminal investigation, launched a year earlier in Utah, concerning a Defense Department contract.

Prosecutors said Taylor offered Lustyik $200,000 in cash and a share in the proceeds of several anticipated contracts, worth millions of dollars, for the agent's promise to impair and impede the investigation.

The trio pleaded guilty to the scheme. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 5, 2015.

Acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen called the latter scheme a "troubling reminder" that corruption "may" exist among agents.

"When a law enforcement officer violates his oath and the public's trust by breaking the law, he must be held accountable," Christensen said. "In this case, former Agent Lustyik's decision to enter into a conspiracy to obstruct a significant fraud investigation in Utah is a troubling reminder that corruption may exist even among those we entrust with protecting our citizens and upholding our laws."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.