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Federal prison guard sentenced to prison for taking bribes

A federal prison guard was sentenced to 3 years in prison Friday for taking bribes to smuggle contraband to Reza Zarrab, the rich Turkish gold trader who masterminded an Iranian sanctions-busting scheme and then became a cooperating government witness.

Victor Casado, 36, of the Bronx, pleaded guilty after Zarrab admitted the bribery scheme during his testimony at the trial of a Turkish banker that documented high-level corruption and strained U.S. ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to the charges and testimony, Casado got bribes of more than $25,000, some via a lawyer, and provided cellphones, alcohol and other material to more than one inmate at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the Manhattan federal jail where Zarrab was held.

Casado was contrite, telling U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan that he was sorry and had no excuse for what he did.

“I don’t have anyone to blame for my behavior,” he said. “I wish I could go back in time.”

Sullivan praised some of Casado’s personal characteristics as a family man, but said he didn’t see much reason to significantly depart from the recommendation of advisory federal sentencing guidelines, which called for a minimum of 37 months.

“This crime really is an assault on an institution — not just the Bureau of Prisons, but our entire system of justice,” he said.

Zarrab, initially the target of a massive federal investigation of Iranian sanctions busting, ended up pleading guilty to both the sanctions scheme and the prison bribery and appearing as the star witness at a trial of an obscure Turkish banker.

He has not yet been sentenced. Federal prison records indicate he was released from custody in late 2017, and he has been sighted in and about New York City, according to news reports.

A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney declined to comment on Zarrab’s custodial status.

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