Federal Agent, Colombian Narcotics Kingpin and Colombian National Indicted for Conspiracy, Corruption and Obstruction
A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent and two Colombian nationals were charged today by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida with conspiracy, corruption and obstruction of justice charges stemming from their participation in a bribery scheme that resulted in the dismissal of an indictment filed against one of the Colombian nationals in exchange for cash and other things of value, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Moreland of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Southeast Region; and Special Agent in Charge Jay Donly of the Office of Inspector General (OIG), HSI.
According to the indictment, Special Agent Christopher V. Ciccione, II, 52, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, was the case agent for Operation Cornerstone, a large-scale Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force case that resulted in indictments of Colombia-based cocaine traffickers from the Cali Cartel, including Jose Piedrahita Ceballos, a Colombian national. The indictment alleges that Piedrahita gave benefits to Ciccione in exchange for official acts that resulted in the dismissal of the indictment against Piedrahita. Juan Carlos Velasco, also a Colombian national, served as the intermediary between Ciccione and Piedrahita. Ciccione ultimately succeeded in getting the Cornerstone indictment dismissed against Piedrahita in exchange for approximately $20,000 in cash, dinner, drinks and prostitution.
The indictment further alleges that while maintaining contact with Piedrahita, Ciccione misled the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI management and altered DHS records to represent to decision makers that Piedrahita was “unidentified” and that his case should be dismissed because “all investigative efforts” were “exhausted.” In addition, Ciccone falsified the concurrence of several other federal agents and even attempted to parole Piedrahita into the U.S.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Piedrahita as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act on May 3, 2016.
ICE-OPR, Department of Homeland Security’s OIG and the FBI investigated the case. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and Office of the Judicial Attaché in Colombia, and the Drug Enforcement Administration provided valuable assistance to the investigation. Trial Attorneys Luke Cass and Jennifer A. Clarke of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.