Gold trader’s Turkish lawyer implicated in guard bribe case
NEW YORK (AP) — A Turkish lawyer was alleged in court papers to have provided thousands of dollars to corrupt a prison guard into smuggling cellphones and alcohol to a wealthy Turkish gold trader who was awaiting trial, according to charges brought Thursday against the guard and comments by a lawyer who represented the trader.
Victor Casado, a Manhattan federal prison guard, was not immediately released on $200,000 bail to face charges that he accepted over $45,000 in bribes to funnel contraband to the trader, Reza Zarrab.
The identity of the Turkish lawyer was not revealed in court papers. But attorney Benjamin Brafman, who had represented Zarrab, said the lawyer referenced in court papers is a woman who visited Zarrab at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and has since returned to Turkey.
“None of the U.S. lawyers knew anything about the plot and had no involvement whatsoever,” Brafman said in an email. He declined further comment.
According to court papers, an investigator wrote that one of Zarrab’s lawyers — “a woman, whom I believe to be Attorney-1” — used money she obtained from overseas associates of Zarrab to bribe Casado in a plot that also involved other inmates and the wife of one inmate. In all, Casado was alleged to have received between $45,000 and $50,000.
Two inmates not identified in court papers have already pleaded guilty to charges in the case, according to a criminal complaint. A third has pleaded guilty to a separate plot in which Casado allegedly asked the inmate to send thousands of dollars to a paralegal with whom he was having a romantic relationship. The paralegal then gave the money to Casado, court papers said.
The complaint said alcohol was smuggled into the prison in plastic water bottles. Other contraband included over-the-counter cold medication, vitamin C and food.
Zarrab, 34, was arrested in early 2016 when he arrived in the United States to take his family to Disney World. Previously, he had lived in Istanbul with his wife, Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey last year tried to broker a deal between Turkey’s president and U.S. officials. After those efforts failed, Zarrab pleaded guilty and became a U.S. government cooperator in an Iran sanctions case that strained relations between Turkey and the U.S.
He testified late last year at the trial of a Turkish banker that he paid $45,000 in bribes to a guard. He also testified he helped Iran evade U.S. economic sanctions with billions of dollars in proceeds from oil and gas sales. The banker was convicted and is awaiting sentencing.
Casado’s lawyer, John Diaz, declined to comment on the charges.
According to court papers, the Turkish lawyer received over $200,000 in money transfers from Turkey through Western Union during numerous visits to the U.S. between December 2016 and April 2017. The criminal complaint said she stayed in New York City for several weeks at a time between mid-2016 and August 2017.