19 Nov 2019
For years, University of Miami professor and author Bruce Bagley served as a go-to quote for reporters writing about crime in the Americas. He spoke authoritatively on violent Mexican drug cartels, guerrilla politics in Colombia and violence in Haiti.
But Bagley, the feds say, parlayed his mastery of Latin American crime into a secret side job — laundering at least $3 million in dirty Venezuelan money through his own U.S. bank accounts and keeping about $300,000 as a fee for himself.
An FBI investigation culminated Monday when South Florida agents arrested the 73-year-old Bagley, shocking the University of Miami and fellow academics across Latin America.
Federal prosecutors in New York City announced a grand jury had indicted him on charges of money laundering and conspiracy after he “opened bank accounts for the express purpose of laundering money for corrupt foreign nationals.”
“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,” Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
Bagley made his first court appearance on Monday, and was ordered to pay a $300,000 bond before being released from a detention center.
He’s scheduled for another appearance in Miami federal court on Thursday before his case is transferred to New York City.
“We’re going to diligently defend his case,” Bagley’s attorney, Daniel Forman, told the Miami Herald. “We’re confident at the end of the day he’s going to be vindicated.”
Bagley is a longtime UM international relations professor who wrote the book “Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today.” The university said it learned of the indictment on Monday afternoon.
“In light of this development, Professor Bagley is on administrative leave,” the school said in a statement. “As this is a personal matter in an ongoing investigation, the University has no further comment at this time.”
Over the years, he became a high-profile figure among the university’s cadre of experts. Bagley had appeared in newspapers such as the Miami Herald, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
He was quoted as recently as early November in Australia’s Daily Telegraph for a story about the drug violence wracking Mexico. “This was an unmitigated debacle,” Bagley told the newspaper about a battle between cartel members and police that killed 13 people.
Bagley even served as an expert witness in court. The pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, being sued over the opioid crisis, hired him to testify about illegal fentanyl arriving in the United States from China and Mexico.
In October, Bagley took the stand as an expert witness for the defense at a major drug-trafficking trial in Miami federal court. The trial featured a Colombian syndicate accused of conspiring to ship 20 tons of cocaine into the United States.
“He’s incredibly credentialed, and he was a great witness for us,” said defense attorney Erick Cruz, adding that news of Bagley’s indictment on money laundering charges was “pretty shocking.”
By David Ovalle and Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 18 November 2019
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