Colombia’s former anti-corruption chief and a private attorney each pleaded guilty Tuesday in Miami federal court to charges of a foreign bribery scheme that played out at a local mall.
Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, the former national director of anti-corruption in the Colombian attorney general’s office, admitted that he traveled last year to Miami on an official trip to pocket thousands of dollars from a Colombian politician on the lam.
Moreno, and a fellow attorney acting as his middleman, met privately at the Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater with the Colombian politician who had left the country to evade a corruption investigation.
Moreno and the attorney, Leonardo Luis Pinilla Gomez, met the politician in the mall bathroom to collect $10,000 in cash stuffed in a large manila envelope — a bribe in exchange for giving him confidential information about the politician’s corruption probe in Colombia, according to court records.
The Colombian politician, who was working undercover for the Drug Enforcement Administration, recorded conversations with Moreno and Pinilla in which they discussed the anti-corruption official’s authority to control the probe in Bogotá.
In exchange, Moreno and Pinilla asked for a bribe payment of 400 million Colombian pesos ($132,000) with an additional $30,000 to be paid before Moreno left Miami for Colombia, according to an indictment filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Gonzalez.
The Colombian defendants, represented by attorneys David Weinstein and Humberto Dominguez, eventually cut plea deals. They pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to conspiring to launder money to promote foreign bribery and face sentencing in November before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro.
Moreno’s shakedown of the Colombian politician led to the high-ranking Colombian official’s arrest in Bogotá last year. Before his extradition to Miami in May, Moreno pleaded guilty in Colombia to a similar extortion scheme, including testifying about bribing a Supreme Court Justice and other members of the judiciary in that country.
According to Colombian news reports, Moreno cooperated with Colombian officials and his testimony led to the arrests of the former Supreme Court chief justice and other government officials in that country.