MIAMI — Like a scene out of Narcos, a Department of Homeland Security agent was indicted in Miami for accepting bribes from a Colombian cocaine trafficker who was looking to avoid charges.
The Department of Justice reports that Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Christopher Ciccione, who was indicted by a federal grand jury Monday in Miami on charges of conspiracy, corruption and obstruction of justice, was working as the case agent for a drug enforcement task force. The result of the operation resulted in indictments of members of the Cali Cartel, including Jose Piedrahita Ceballos, a drug kingpin.
The Homeland Security agent from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is accused of accepting $20,000 in cash, as well as perks such as dinner, drinks and flings with prostitutes in hopes of getting the indictment against Piedrahita thrown out.
Ciccione reportedly distorted records and lied to prosecutors.
In May, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Piedrahita as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). As a result, all of Piedrahita’s assets based in the United States were frozen.
“Today’s action strips Piedrahita Ceballos of his commercial legitimacy and is the seventh designation in OFAC’s continuing strategy to systematically dismantle La Oficina by targeting its leaders and financial and support networks,” said John E. Smith, Acting OFAC Director, at the time.
Since the 1990s, Piedrahita has built an empire in Colombia, which he balanced with his drug deals. Piedrahita’s wife, Claudia Jannet Castillo Londoño; two sons, Jose Piedrahita Castillo and Andres Piedrahita Castillo; and two business partners, Nelson Albeiro Palacio Montoya and Nelson Fernando Jaramillo Estrada have also had their assets frozen.
Looks like the Cali cartel is alive and well.
Since June of 2000 more than 1,800 individuals have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking. Penalties range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation, or up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million.