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A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent based in Miami has been charged with extortion and bribery involving a Colombian company, authorities said.
Federal prosecutors said Friday that Juan Felipe Martinez, 47, of Coral Gables conspired with others to illegally obtain large payments from the unidentified construction company. Prosecutors said the ICE special agent falsely claimed the company and some people linked to it were going to be placed on a Treasury Department list that freezes assets and prohibits any dealings with U.S. entities.
In reality, the company wasn't going to be placed on the list. But prosecutors said it paid Martinez and others thousands of dollars so they could purportedly prevent that from happening.
Martinez, who faces eight counts of extortion, two counts of bribery, and two counts of making false statements, made his initial court appearance Friday but did not yet have a lawyer. Bail was set at $250,000, with his arraignment scheduled for Jan. 21.
“Today’s arrest is a reminder that no one is above the law. You can’t sell your badge and abuse your power and expect to get away with it,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, in a statement. “And while Martinez’s alleged conduct tarnishes his badge, it does not tarnish those of the honorable men and women who serve and protect our community faithfully every day.”