Professor Who Wrote Book on Drug Crime Is Accused of Money Laundering

By: Bob Van Voris

A Miami professor who’s an expert on drug trafficking and organized crime was charged by the U.S. with laundering money from Venezuela, skimming more than $250,000 for himself.

Bruce Bagley, 73, a professor of international studies at the University of Miami, was the co-editor of the 2015 book “Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today” as well as a contributor to various journals on the topic.

But on Monday prosecutors in Manhattan charged Bagley with laundering about $2.5 million into the U.S., money that foreign nationals embezzled and got from bribes and other corrupt schemes. Bagley pocketed about 10% of the money, according to prosecutors.

“Bagley, an American professor, contributed to the success of illegal activity overseas, carried out against the Venezuelan people,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.

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Bruce Bagley

Bagley, of Coral Gables, Florida, appeared in federal court in Miami Monday, according to court records. He was released on $300,000 bond cosigned by his son and daughter.

The University of Miami, where Bagley is a professor of international studies, said he was put on administrative leave after the school learned he was indicted.

“The arrest came as a complete surprise to everyone and we are just now reviewing the indictment,” Bagley’s lawyer, Daniel Forman, said in an email. “Based on my extensive knowledge of Dr. Bagley, both professionally and personally, I am confident he will be vindicated at the end of the day.”

Widely quoted in the media about drug trafficking, Bagley has criticized flawed efforts at combating it. Last year, he told Bloomberg News that Marxist guerrillas from the National Liberation Army in Colombia were “serious about peace” and that the government was dragging its feet implementing land reform and ensuring security.

The New York Times cited him in 2012 about what he called a “Whac-A-Mole” approach, in which targeting trafficking in one place just moves to another location.

On the “Rate My Professors” website, Bagley has a few, mixed reviews. While the most recent, from 2013, describes him as “awesome,” others from earlier complain he belittles students with opinions contrary to his and with one calling him a “guy who loves to hear himself talk.”

According to U.S. prosecutors, Bagley opened a bank account using a company he owned, taking in 14 payments from November 2017 to October 2018. The payments came from Swiss and United Arab Emirates accounts, prosecutors said. The description of Bagley’s company, which isn’t named in court papers, matches Bagley Consultants Inc., a defunct Florida corporation opened by the professor in 2005.

Overseas Accounts

The overseas accounts were held by a “purported food company” and a wealth management firm allegedly controlled by a Colombian, whom the government didn’t identify.

Prosecutors claim Bagley would withdraw 90% of the payments in the form of cashier’s checks payable to an account held by an unnamed person and transfer the rest to his own account.

Even after the bank account was shut down for suspicious activity in October 2018, Bagley opened a second one in December, where he received money on two separate occasions, prosecutors said.

Bagley is charged with two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy. He faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted.

“About the only lesson to be learned from Professor Bagley today is that involving oneself in public corruption, bribery, and embezzlement schemes is going to lead to an indictment,” Sweeney said.

The case is U.S. v. Bagley, 19-cr-00765, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).