- "We are going to fight these charges," ex-FBI agent's lawyer says
- Alleged scheme involved selling confidential info
- Bangladeshi man allegedly paid to find out about political rival
- "It's all right there in front of us," suspect allegedly said
A former FBI special agent in New York and two Connecticut men have been charged for their alleged roles in a bribery scheme to dig up confidential information about a key figure in Bangladeshi politics, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said.
Robert Lustyik, 50, was arrested Friday on an allegation that he and a childhood friend, Johannes Thaler, 49, solicited cash from a third man in exchange for documents and information to which Lustyik had access to because of his FBI job.
The third man was identified as Rizve Ahmed, 34, also known as "Caesar." Ahmed is an acquaintance of Thaler, both of whom live in Connecticut.
Lustyik's lawyer, Raymond Mansolillo, on Saturday challenged the investigation, which involved the Department of Justice's public integrity unit, and insisted his client was innocent. At that time, Lustyik was still being held in Utah, his lawyer said.
"We're going to fight the charges," Mansolillo said. "My client is eager to go to trial."
According to the four-count criminal complaint, which was unsealed Friday, Lustyik was working for the FBI in its White Plains, New York, office in September 2011, when he became involved in the scheme, which continued until March 2012.
It alleges that Ahmed, a native of Bangladesh, was seeking confidential law enforcement information, including a confidential Suspicious Activity Report, about a prominent citizen of his country affiliated with a rival political party. The complaint identifies that person only as "Individual 1."
"Ahmed sought, among other things, to obtain information about Individual 1, to locate Individual 1, and to harm Individual 1 and others associated with Individual 1," the complaint says.
Ahmed paid at least $1,000 to the two other men for information that included a suspicious activity report, according to the complaint.
Citing text messages as evidence, it says that Lustyik and Thaler discussed pressuring Ahmed to fork over extra money for the information.
"We need to push (Ahmed) for this meeting and get that 40gs quick .... I will talk us into getting the cash .... I will work my magic .... We r sooooooo close", says Lustyik in one exchange, which occurred in late December 2011 or early January 2012, according to the complaint.
Thaler is said to have responded, "I know. It's all right there in front of us. Pretty soon we'll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant ...."
Around January 2012, after learning that Ahmed was considering using someone else to get the information, Lustyik allegedly sent this text to Thaler: "I want to kill (Ahmed) .... I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing? .... Tell (Ahmed), I've got (Individual 1's) number and I'm pissed .... I will put a wire on n get (Ahmed and his associates) to admit they want (a Bangladeshi political figure) offed n we sell it to (Individual 1.)"
The complaint charges all three men with conspiracy to bribe a public official; it charges Thaler and Lustyik with soliciting and receiving bribes; it charges Ahmed with bribing a public official and offering to bribe a public official; and it charges Lustyik with unlawfully disclosing a suspicious activity report.
If convicted, Lustyik faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years; Thaler and Ahmed each face a maximum of 20 years.
A call to Thaler's residence was not immediately returned; CNN was not able to contact Ahmed.
In a statement on a website seeking funds for his legal defense, Lustyik's family described him as "a highly decorated" agent with more than 24 years of service in the counterintelligence division, and said he had been "wrongfully accused."