If all went according to plan, the corrupt agent and his co-conspirator would be “having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant” in no time, as the co-conspirator put it.
Instead, former Special Agent Robert Lustyik and his co-conspirator, Johannes Thaler, will be eating their next few hundred meals behind bars, after Lustyik was sentenced Monday to five years in prison -- in addition to a 10-year sentence imposed by a Utah court in a second, unrelated bribery case in March. Thaler previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
In the case for which he was sentenced Monday, Lustyik had pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes from a Bangladeshi man in the U.S. in exchange for providing that man with confidential information on a rival politician -- information pilfered from FBI computers. Lustyik worked through Thaler, who played the role of middle man.
The first exchange back in December 2011 went well, according to court documents. Thaler met the buyer, identified as Rizve Ahmed, at a food court in Danbury, Conn., where he gave Ahmed an “FBI memo” and a Suspicious Activity Report on the rival politician, and received $1,000 in return.
Lustyik, a who had been at the Bureau for more than 20 years and at the time worked in counter-intelligence, didn’t bother with code words when asking his partner about the meeting, except for an apparent alias for Ahmed.
“Hey did you see cezar [Ahmed]? Did he pay you?” Lustyik texted Thaler after the meet, according to court documents.
“Yeah. I got some for you. We need to talk about Bangladesh,” Thaler responded.
“Ok. He give you a grand? And r they ready to play?” Lustyik wrote.
“Yes on both,” Thaler said.
The pair tried to escalate the deal quickly, hoping for a $40,000 “retainer” and then a $30,000 monthly salary. But things went south when Ahmed didn’t hold up his end.
“I want to kill C… F—king C. Let’s kick his ass. Show them. I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing?” Lustyik reportedly texted Thaler later, before indicating he could turn on his buyer by speaking directly with the target of the spying, the Bangladeshi politician.
It appeared Lustyik and his partner were able to mend fences with Ahmed, but only a few weeks before Lustyik was arrested for a separate bribery case prosecuted out of Utah.
That case, involving a former Green Beret and international security contracts and in which Lustyik also pleaded guilty, may shed some light on why Lustyik, the veteran FBI Special Agent, would sell out the U.S. government in two overlapping bribery schemes.
“[I]t is kind of sad that after 24 years of government service all I have to show for it is a couple of boxes of awards somewhere in my basement and the bitter taste of knowing that ‘the Bureau’ is a family… a dysfunctional one,” he wrote in an email to the ex-Green Beret in March 2012, five months before he was arrested.
Ahmed pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in March for his role in the Bangladesh plot.