Ex-FBI agent sentenced to 10 years in Afghan kickback scheme
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former FBI agent accused of trying to derail a Utah investigation into an alleged defense contractor kickback scheme was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday.
Prosecutors said that in exchange for promised riches, now-retired New York counterintelligence agent Robert Lustyik Jr. created a dossier of fabricated interviews with former federal agents to make it look like the defense contractor’s chief was a key source in a terrorism case.
At his sentencing hearing in Salt Lake City, Lustyik, 52, said he had been transferred to a smaller office shortly before he got involved with the scheme in 2011 and was determined to make one last big case.
“No man is above the law, and for nine months I forgot that,” he said. “I took a boyhood dream of wanting to become an FBI agent and I destroyed it.”
Prosecutor Maria Lerner said the public expects more of law enforcement.
“He sold his badge and he violated his oath,” Lerner said. “He was desperately trying to get rich off of destroying a criminal case.”
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell sentenced Lustyik to several years less than what prosecutors asked for. She acknowledged that he has a wife and two children, one of them undergoing multiple surgeries for a medical condition. The time he serves will be particularly difficult because he’s a former agent, she said.
Also sentenced Monday was the contractor, 54-year-old former special forces soldier Michael L. Taylor, who got two years in prison.
A friend of Lustyik’s accused of acting as a messenger between the two men, Johannes Thaler, was sentenced to 13 months.
Lustyik and Thaler, 51, were also ordered to pay $70,000 in restitution.
Federal prosecutors say the onetime FBI agent agreed to derail a Utah investigation into a company started by former soldiers and suspected of paying kickbacks to win $54 million in bloated government contracts in Afghanistan.
In exchange for a cut of the multimillion-dollar business, Lustyik promised to “blow the doors off” the investigation, prosecutors said.
Utah authorities began investigating the company after one of Taylor’s associates made several cash withdrawals from a St. George credit union that were just shy of a $10,000 federal reporting limit.
Lustyik moved to block that investigation, telling a Utah-based FBI agent that Taylor helped officials capture a significant terrorist. He believed his career in law enforcement was poised to provide a big payoff in 2012 when he offered $1 million as a gift to a friend, the charges state.
“I’ve made us all stinking rich!!!” Lustyik wrote the friend, according to an email included in charging documents. “For 30 years I’ve sacrificed to get to this point.”
Lustyik, who retired in 2012 from his post in White Plains, New York, is also facing sentencing in New York after pleading guilty to charges alleging that he and Thaler sold confidential information to someone who wanted to harm a prominent citizen of Bangladesh.