South Florida

Bribed with cash and prostitutes by Colombian drug lord, federal agent sent to prison for three years

Jose Bayron Piedrahita, a one-time fugitive defendant in the historic Cali cartel drug-trafficking case, is awaiting extradition to Miami.
Jose Bayron Piedrahita, a one-time fugitive defendant in the historic Cali cartel drug-trafficking case, is awaiting extradition to Miami.

A former federal agent who accepted bribes — $18,000 in cash, prostitutes, restaurant meals and a hotel room — from a Colombian drug lord was sentenced to three years in prison Friday in Miami federal court.

Christopher V. Ciccione II, 52, who had worked for Homeland Security Investigations, pleaded guilty in November to a conspiracy of “deceit, craft and trickery” against his own government.

Ciccione, who was arrested in September, didn’t break the law to help just any Colombian drug-trafficking suspect. In exchange for taking bribes, he got a reputed Cali cartel boss, Jose Bayron Piedrahita, removed from the indictment in one of the biggest cocaine-smuggling cases in the nation’s history.

Deploying a web of lies, the veteran agent persuaded federal prosecutors in Miami to dismiss Piedrahita from an indictment seven years ago that initially charged about 100 members of the powerful Cali cartel in 1993.

A new indictment accused Ciccione, Piedrahita and the agent’s informant in Colombia, Juan Carlos Velasco Cano, of conspiring to commit fraud and obstruction of justice. The agent and informant pleaded guilty, while the U.S. government is seeking the extradition of Piedrahita, 58, from Colombia.

The agent, after socializing with Piedrahita in Bogotá in December 2010, lied that the suspect was a fugitive who could not be identified or found, according to a statement filed with his plea agreement. Ciccione admitted he “falsified official records and lied to his supervisors and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to cause” the original drug-trafficking indictment to be dismissed against Piedrahita.

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