MANHATTAN (CN) – A U.S. prison guard faced the other side of the bars on Thursday, as prosecutors in a federal bribery complaint say he accepted $45,000 to smuggle contraband to the star witness in a multibillion-dollar laundering scheme.
Appearing briefly in federal court, Bronx resident Victor Casado spent the last six years collecting paychecks from New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center but he found himself to be the one in handcuffs earlier this morning as his charges became public.
“Your honor, he is still employed at the Bureau of Prisons as of today,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lonergan told a magistrate Thursday afternoon.
According to the 18-page criminal complaint, Casado worked at Metropolitan Correctional Center at the time he met “Inmate-1,” whose description matches that of gold trader Reza Zarrab.
“Inmate-1 has pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement to offenses, including, among others, a conspiracy to violate United States sanctions against Iran, money laundering, and… bribery, and is providing information in the hope of obtaining leniency at sentencing,” a footnote reveals.
Casado’s attorney Juan Diaz told reporters that this inmate “appears to be” Zarrab, who recently implicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his former high-ranking ministers in billions of dollars in illicit trades involving the state-run Halkbank during a high-profile case in New York.
During that trial in December, Zarrab testified that he used his Turkish attorney to paid a guard $45,000 to smuggle in a cell phone, alcohol, Dayquil and other items.
These details echo Casado’s criminal complaint, down to the over-the-counter cold medication provided to the inmate.
Ben Brafman, one member of Zarrab’s enormous legal team, blamed the alleged wrongdoing on one Turkish attorney.
“The attorney alleged to be involved was a Turkish attorney who was visiting the U.S. to assist Zarrab,” he said in an email. “None of his U.S. attorneys were involved or even aware of the transaction.”
Casado, who sported a red polo shirt and shaved head at today’s hearing, faces decades in prison if convicted of five counts of fraud, conspiracy, bribery and smuggling contraband.
Surrendering his passport, the 35-year-old agreed to pay a $200,000 bail bond, which will release him from pretrial detention once executed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman has not decided whether Casado must liquidate his $77,000 pension to pay for his legal defense.