FT. LAUDERDALE -- After a three-day jury trial in Ft. Lauderdale before U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez, Jr., Mario Fabricio Ormachea Aliaga, 43, of La Paz, Bolivia, was convicted of traveling to the United States with the intent to commit extortion and attempted extortion.
At trial, the evidence showed that Ormachea, the national chief of the Bolivian Police’s Anti-Corruption Department, traveled to the United States to extort Humberto Roca, a Bolivian citizen and political exile who was living in the United States.
Roca was a successful and prominent Bolivian businessman who had run the country’s largest private airline, Aerosur.
Roca had left Bolivia in 2010, saying he faced political persecution after prosecutors accused AeroSur of providing tickets to foreign mercenaries. In December, a Bolivian judge issued an arrest warrant for Roca for “illegal enrichment.” Roca says the charges were politically motivated in an effort by Bolivian President Evo Morales to stamp out competition to the state-owned airline.
After Roca spoke out against the Bolivian government, the Bolivian government charged him and members of his family with various crimes against the State. Ormachea flew to the United States to meet with Roca. During his meetings with Roca, Ormachea told Roca that he was in charge of several of the criminal cases against him, that he decided what the criminal investigations showed and what they did not show, and that he provided the components necessary for the Bolivian government to make decisions on Roca’s cases. Ormachea then told Roca that he believed him to be innocent of any crimes but that it would cost him $30,000 to have Ormachea shift the investigations to the guilty parties. If, however, Roca did not pay, Ormachea said that he would pursue Roca’s arrest in the United States, extradition to Bolivia, and prosecution there.
The FBI monitored and recorded this meeting. Ormachea agreed to take a payment of $10,000 immediately and receive the remainder of the payment later.
Roca gave Ormachea $5,000 in previously-recorded bills as an initial payment towards the $30,000 required to resolve the charges against him. After the meeting, Ormachea departed by car.
FBI surveillance teams in coordination with local law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of Ormachea shortly thereafter. Ormachea was detained and $5,000 was recovered from his person. A review of the seized U.S. currency revealed that it matched the previously recorded bills.
Law enforcement officials interviewed Ormachea at the Miami Field Office of the FBI. After receiving and waiving his Miranda warnings in writing, Ormachea acknowledged meeting with Roca on two occasions but denied attempting to extort him.
Ormachea faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison, plus fines and restitution. Ormachea will be sentenced in May by U.S. District Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum.