A Colombian Cali Cartel cocaine trafficker pleaded guilty Friday to bribing a former Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in exchange for the dismissal of an indictment and official authorization to enter the U.S. Last year, the former federal agent pleaded guilty to accepting approximately $20,000 in cash, as well as dinner, drinks, and prostitutes during an extended hotel stay in Bogota, Colombia.
While working as a case agent for Operation Cornerstone, a large-scale Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case that resulted in indictments of over 100 Colombia-based cocaine traffickers from the Cali Cartel, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Special Agent Christopher Ciccione II was contacted by men working for Cali Cartel drug lord Jose Bayron Piedrahíta-Ceballos. In December 2010, Piedrahíta and Colombian national Juan Carlos Velasco Cano gave Ciccione a meal at an upscale Bogota restaurant, liquor, $20,000 in cash, and prepaid prostitutes to join Ciccione at a Marriott hotel in Bogota.
In exchange for the bribes, Ciccione misled the U.S. Attorney’s Office, HSI management, and altered TECS records to represent to decision makers that Piedrahíta was no longer a target worth pursuing. Ciccone also falsified the concurrence of several other federal agents and attempted to parole Piedrahíta into the United States through the U.S. Department of State.
On November 30, 2017, Ciccione pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for securing the dismissal of a drug trafficking indictment filed against a Colombian cocaine trafficker. The former federal agent was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison.
“Christopher Ciccione abused his law enforcement authority for personal profit,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan stated in a press release. “His actions not only comprised an ongoing investigation and nearly allowed a dangerous drug kingpin to escape justice, but they also betrayed the public trust placed in him to carry out his sworn duties with integrity.”
In January 2018, Velasco was sentenced to 27 months in prison for bribing a federal agent. On Friday, Piedrahíta pleaded guilty to bribing a former Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent to secure the dismissal of a drug trafficking indictment filed against him.
Piedrahíta was extradited from the Republic of Colombia on April 5, 2019, and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. of the Southern District of Florida.
On May 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Piedrahíta as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.