Ex-FBI agent pleads guilty to bribery charges, faces 17-year prison sentence

Ex-FBI agent pleads guilty to bribery charges, faces 17-year prison sentence
A former FBI agent pleaded guilty on Tuesday to bribery charges in which he and a confidant attempted to offer someone confidential information about a Bangladeshi politician in exchange for cash.

Robert Lustyik, 52, admitted all charges levied against him, including bribery, conspiracy to commit fraud, and theft of government property. He now faces up to 17 years in prison,accordingto The Journal News.

“Robert Lustyik today admitted to conducting a bribery scheme in which, for his own personal gain, he secretly sold information and documents to which he had access as an FBI agent,” US Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York said in a statement. "Lustyik betrayed our system of justice: He breached not only the law, but also his sworn oath, and the great trust and confidence placed in him by citizens and colleagues.”

Lustyik, his cohort Johannes Thaler, and Rizve Ahmed were charged in August 2013 for attempting, from around September 2011 through March 2012, to collect damaging information about an unidentified Bangladeshi politician in exchange for bribes.

Ahmed, known as ‘Caesar,’ paid Lustyik and Thaler for the information. Ahmed "perceived himself to be on the opposite side of a political rivalry" with the political figure and was seeking to “harm” him and his associates, according to prosecutors.

Lustyik and Thaler would trade text messages about the scheme, prosecutors said. At one point, Lustyik is alleged to have told Thaler: "We need to push [Ahmed] for this meeting and get that 40 gs quick...I will talk us into getting the cash...I will work my magic...We r sooooooo close."

Thaler answered: "I know. It's all right there in front of us. Pretty soon we'll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant..."

Lustyik “pleaded guilty to all five counts in the indictment against him,” according to the US Justice Department statement, “including conspiracy to engage in a bribery scheme, soliciting bribes by a public official, conspiracy to defraud the citizens of the United States and the FBI, theft of government property, and unauthorized disclosure of a Suspicious Activity Report.”

Lustyik’s sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2015. He remains free on a $1.5 million bond, though he has agreed to surrender on Feb. 15, according to The New Journal. He faces a maximum of 55 years in prison, though sentencing guidelines call for between 13 and 17 ½ years.

"Robert Lustyik discarded the FBI's principles of 'fidelity, bravery and integrity,' and sold his badge to the highest bidder," Assistant US Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in the statement.

Thaler, 51, and Ahmed, 35, had already pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy to commit fraud in the case. They face and maximum sentence of 35 years in prison and are set to be sentenced on Jan. 23.

Lustyik, a 24-year FBI agent originally from upstate New York, retired in 2012 just before being indicted in a separate federal bribery scheme based in Utah. Thaler, formerly an employee of Macy’s, also pleaded guilty in that case.

Lustyik will be sentenced in the Utah case come March. He admitted to a plan in which he accepted at least $200,000 to block a federal investigation of a defense contractor, attempting to designate the contractor as a government informant. Thaler admitted to acting as a messenger between Lustyik and Michael Taylor, who was suspected of impropriety involving a $54 million contract in Afghanistan.