Risk & Compliance

International Crime Scholar Pleads Guilty in Money-Laundering Case

Bruce Bagley said he knew the funds were connected to corrupt projects in Venezuela.

A recognized international scholar on drug cartels and money laundering has pleaded guilty to money laundering over his involvement in a Venezuelan bribery and corruption scheme.

Bruce Bagley, a professor at the University of Miami, admitted that, between November 2017 and October 2018, his company’s bank account received approximately $2.5 million from the overseas accounts controlled by a sanctioned Columbian businessman.

Bagley was arrested in November 2019 and pleaded not guilty at the time; however, he filed a notice in March indicating that he planned to change his plea.

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He is the author of the book “Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today.”

“Bruce Bagley … went from writing the book on crime — literally writing a book on drug trafficking and organized crime — to committing crimes,” the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, said in a press release. “Professor Bagley admitted today to laundering money for corrupt foreign nationals — the proceeds of bribery and corruption, stolen from the citizens of Venezuela. Bagley now faces the possibility of a long tenure in prison.”

According to court documents, Bagley received monthly payments from a corrupt food company run by a Columbian businessman, since identified as Alex Saab. Bagley transferred the funds to bank accounts controlled by a U.S. law enforcement informant, Jorge Luis Hernandez, while keeping a percentage for himself.

Saab was sanctioned last year by the U.S. Treasury Department allegedly profiting from a no-bid contract to import food to Venezuela. He was indicted in Miami in July for laundering money connected to a public housing program in Venezuela.

“I should have understood that the money involved were proceeds of unlawful activity,” Bagley said in a federal court hearing.

Bagley has been on administrative leave at the University of Miami since last fall.

His sentencing is scheduled for October 1.

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