NEW YORK — A New York federal prison guard who admitted accepting over $25,000 in cash bribes to smuggle cellphones, alcohol and food to a wealthy Turkish gold trader who was awaiting trial was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Judge Richard Sullivan said he wanted the public, prison employees and prisoners to understand the seriousness of Victor Casado's crime.
"This crime really is an assault on an institution ... our entire system of justice," said Sullivan, who was recently elevated from the district court to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
He also ordered Casado to pay $26,500 in restitution.
Casado, 36, pleaded guilty in August , admitting that he accepted cash to make deliveries to the trader, Reza Zarrab. Zarrab, 35, later pleaded guilty in a cooperation deal and testified against a Turkish banker who was convicted at trial.
The prosecution of the banker strained U.S.-Turkey relations as officials in Turkey called the trial a charade.
Before the sentence was announced, Casado said he was "truly sorry, I am, for my actions."
"I feel remorseful and chastened by my conduct," he added. "I do not have a worthy excuse for my behavior."
Born in Santiago, Dominican Republic, Casado at age 9 moved to New York in 1991 with family members but lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood, according to court papers filed by his lawyer, Florian Miedel.
"Victor Casado knows that he made the biggest mistake of his life. For the prospect of some easy cash, he destroyed his own life, caused the people he cares most about to suffer deeply, and placed the institution he cared about as well as society more generally at potential risk," the lawyer wrote in seeking leniency for his client.
In court, Miedel called Casado a "good man" who "abandoned his moral compass and gave in to temptation."
Prosecutors Jessica Lonergan and Nicolas Roos wrote in court papers that Casado should serve at least three years in prison.
They noted that Casado was a higher-ranking prison guard when he accepted multiple bribe payments, taking advantage of a wealthy inmate.
They said he was motivated "purely out of greed" when he accepted bribes worth over $25,000 in 2016 and 2017 and solicited another $5,000 that he never received.
The bribes were delivered by non-incarcerated associates of the inmate, including in one instance an attorney, prosecutors said.
Zarrab, arrested in 2016, is awaiting sentencing. Previously, he lived in Istanbul with his wife, Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes.
He is no longer in the federal prison population, though it is unclear whether he is still in the custody of the FBI, as he was during the 2017 trial of the Turkish banker.
Zarrab was arrested in early 2016 when he arrived in the United States to take his family to Disney World.
In 2017, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey tried to broker a deal between Turkey's president and U.S. officials.