For years, Bruce M. Bagley has taught in the University of Miami's International Studies program. He's one of the nation's foremost experts on money laundering in Latin America.
That might be because, at least according to the FBI, he's been helping to launder money out of Latin America. Today federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Bagley with laundering nearly $3 million in dirty money out of Venezuela between November 2017 and October 2018. Bloomberg first reported on the charges this afternoon.
"Bruce Bagley, a college professor and author of the book Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today, allegedly opened bank accounts for the express purpose of laundering money for corrupt foreign nationals," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said today in a media release. "Moreover, the funds Bagley was allegedly laundering were the proceeds of bribery and corruption, stolen from the citizens of Venezuela. Today's charges of money laundering and conspiracy should serve as an object lesson for Bruce Bagley, who now faces a potential tenure in federal prison.”
If convicted, Bagley, a 73-year-old Coral Gables resident, faces up to 20 years in federal prison. The professor did not immediately respond to an email from New Times. (Bagely's daughter Adele Valencia happens to be the City of Miami's director of code compliance.)
Spokespeople for the University of Miami say Bagley has been suspended from his teaching job.
"The University of Miami was made aware Monday afternoon of the indictment filed against Professor Bruce Bagley," the university announced. "In light of this development, Professor Bagley is on administrative leave. As this is a personal matter in an ongoing investigation, the University has no further comment at this time."
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According to the feds, Bagley opened a series of bank accounts tied to an unnamed entity he owned, listed as "Company-1" in a federal indictment. In 2016, the feds say, he opened a fresh account at a bank in Weston, Florida. But between 2016 and 2017, his accounts showed barely any activity. However, beginning in November 2017, prosecutors say, Bagley began receiving mysteriously huge chunks of cash — approximately $200,000 per month — from bank accounts in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. (The accounts claimed to have been tied to a wealth-management firm and a "purported food company.") The feds say Bagley then withdrew 90 percent of the money via a cashier's check, handed the money to an unnamed individual (listed as "Individual-1"), and kept the remaining 10 percent for himself. He and Individual-1 would allegedly even go to the bank together. The feds say Bagley received 14 illegal deposits in all.
"The Overseas Accounts belonged to a Colombian individual ('Individual-2')," Manhattan prosecutors wrote today in a media release. "Bagley and Individual-1 discussed the fact that they were moving Individual-2's funds and that the funds represented the proceeds of foreign bribery and embezzlement stolen from the Venezuelan people. Despite this fact, Bagley continued to receive money from accounts belonging to Individual-2 and continued to pass the majority of those funds to Individual-1. Moreover, Bagley entered into sham contracts that purported to justify the transfer of Individual-2's funds into Account-1."
Bagley's accounts were shut down in October 2018 due to suspicious activity. But, the feds say, he opened another account and allegedly accepted dirty Venezuelan cash two more times. The feds say that in February, they set up a sting and sent $224,000 to Bagley's accounts, told him the money came from corrupt sources in Venezuela, and watched as he happily accepted the cash.