Exclusive: DEA Charges Veteran ICE Agent In Extortion Case
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South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A 250-thousand dollar bond has been set for a veteran U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent facing multiple charges that range from Bribery to Extortion.
Juan Martinez, a Special Agent with ICE, appeared in federal magistrate court Friday afternoon facing a total of 12 criminal counts.
Martinez, 47, is charged with; 8 counts of extortion, 2 counts of bribery and 2 counts of false writing.
Martinez was first employed as a Special Agent by the US Customs Service in 2001, according to the indictment.
According to prosecutors, Federal investigators were led to Martinez in 2011 while following a money trail from a Colombian company. Prosecutors said investigators tracked a man with $110,000 dollars cash to Bayside where they said that he gave that money to Martinez. As investigators looked into Martinez’s actions, they allegedly found more illegal activity.
Martinez is accused of extorting money from Colombian Company 1, a commercial and residential company located in Pereira, Columbia.
Martinez allegedly took bribes to bring people into the country by falsely claiming they were witnesses in drug cases. He’s also accused of taking liquor, airline tickets, a diamond ring, and watch, from individuals telling them that they could avoid prosecution.
The object of the conspiracy, per the indictment, was, “for Martinez and his con-conspirators to unlawfully enrich themselves by using Martinez’s official position to obtain large payments from Colombian Company 1,” along with other company individuals.
Martinez allegedly lied, saying that the company, along with certain individuals associated with it, was going to be put on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list by Office of Foreign Asset Control, a Treasury Department list that freezes assets and prohibits any dealings with U.S. entities.
Martinez allegedly offered to keep them off the SDN list if they made large payments to Martinez and others.
Martinez and members of the conspiracy allegedly traveled between Colombia and Miami and, according to the indictment, used phone and emails in interstate and foreign commerce to coordinate with others.
Martinez is being charged under the Hobbs Act.
The Hobbs Act covers acts of robbery and extortion.
Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, Martinez’s attorney, said that her client is innocent.
“We disagree with the government 100-percent. Agent Martinez has been a law enforcement agent for over 20 years. He has dutifully served his country. He denies every single paragraph of that indictment and is looking forward to a trial where is innocence will be proven,” said Pinera-Vazquez.
Martinez, who is a former Miami police officer, made his first appearance in court Friday before Magistrate Judge William C. Turnoff.
The court set bond at $250,000, with a Nebbia condition, which requires Martinez and any cosigners must prove his bond money comes from a reputable source. His arraignment was scheduled for January 21, 2014.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement: “ICE takes accusations of misconduct very seriously. As the matter is currently under investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment on this specific case. As public servants working for a law enforcement agency, every employee at ICE is held to the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct.”