By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - A former Venezuelan judge faces sentencing in Miami federal court on Friday for money laundering, extortion and conspiring to obstruct justice after U.S. prosecutors accused him of taking bribes from a South American drug cartel boss, according to court records.
Benny Palmeri-Bacchi pleaded guilty in November to the three charges, each carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, as part of a deal with prosecutors.
The prosecutors agreed to seek a lower sentence under the plea agreement in exchange for his cooperation with U.S. efforts to target high-profile Venezuelan officials suspected of aiding and abetting Colombian drug traffickers.
Palmeri-Bacchi was arrested last summer after flying into Miami for a family vacation at Disney World. He was charged along with Rodolfo McTurk, the former director of Interpol in Venezuela, who was never taken into U.S. custody.
The pair allegedly helped Jaime Alberto Marin Zamora, a leader of Colombia's North Valley Cartel, ship “thousands of kilograms of cocaine” from Venezuela to the United States, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed in December 2013.
As part of the plea agreement, U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop a charge of drug trafficking against Palmeri-Bacchi that carried a possible term of life in prison.
Palmeri-Bacchi was arrested in a U.S. push that also ensnared Venezuela’s former intelligence chief, Hugo Carvajal, who was charged in a May 2013 indictment with conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.
Carvajal was briefly detained on the Caribbean island of Aruba in July but returned to Venezuela days later.
(Editing by Letitia Stein and Will Dunham)