Former Venezuelan judge sentenced to nearly 7 years in Miami drug case

MIAMI (Reuters) – A former Venezuelan judge was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison in US court in Miami yesterday after being accused of taking bribes from a South American drug cartel boss.

Benny Palmeri-Bacchi pleaded guilty in November to money laundering, extortion and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors agreed to seek a lenient sentence for his cooperation with a US push against prominent Venezuelan officials suspected of assisting Colombian drug traffickers.

“I feel very remorseful and I ask for mercy,” he told US Judge Ursula Ungaro in Spanish, speaking through an English translator.

He was sentenced to 80 months in prison for each of the three counts to which he pleaded guilty but was allowed to serve the sentences simultaneously.

Under his plea deal, US prosecutors dropped a charge of drug trafficking against Palmeri-Bacchi, which had carried a possible term of life in prison. Palmeri-Bacchi received three years supervised release following his sentence, but he is expected to be deported.

“We have a very favorable plea agreement and very aggravated behavior,” Ungaro said at the hearing, noting the charges of public corruption.

“We’re talking about narco trafficking at the highest level,” she said.

Attorneys for Palmeri-Bacchi declined to comment, as did US prosecutors.

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