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Judge Okays Release Of ICE Agent Charged With Bribery, Extortion

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A federal judge has ruled that a veteran U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent facing multiple charges that range from bribery to extortion can be released from federal detention while he awaits trial.

In an afternoon hearing, Federal Judge William Turnoff agreed to the release of Juan Martinez after his defense attorney showed that money which would be put up to meet his $250 thousand bond came from legal sources.

Martinez, a Special Agent with ICE, is charged with; 8 counts of extortion, 2 counts of bribery and 2 counts of false writing.

When he is released, Martinez will be outfitted with an ankle monitor to help enforce his 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.  He will have to surrender his weapons and passport.  He was also warned not to go anywhere near a train station or aiport.

"If you sneeze wrong, I will revoke your bond," said Judge Turnoff.

"Yes, sir," replied Martinez.

In Martinez's Kings Bay neighborhood, Teny Sharoff told CBS4's Gary Nelson that she's known Martinez for "many years" and described him as "a fine man" who has done many good things for her and others.

"He is innocent of these charges," said Sharoff. "He is not guilty."

According to prosecutors, federal investigators were led to Martinez in 2011 while following a money trail from a Colombian company.

Investigators reportedly tracked a man with $110,000 dollars cash to Bayside where they said that he gave that money to Martinez. As investigators looked into Martinez's actions, they allegedly found more illegal activity.

Martinez, 47, is accused of extorting money from Colombian Company 1, a commercial and residential company located in Pereira, Columbia.

Martinez allegedly took bribes to bring people into the country by falsely claiming they were witnesses in drug cases. He's also accused of taking liquor, airline tickets, a diamond ring and watch from individuals telling them that they could avoid prosecution.

The object of the conspiracy, per the indictment, was, "for Martinez and his con-conspirators to unlawfully enrich themselves by using Martinez's official position to obtain large payments from Colombian Company 1," along with other company individuals.

Martinez allegedly told the company, along with certain individuals associated with it, that is was about to be put on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list by Office of Foreign Asset Control, a Treasury Department list that freezes assets and prohibits any dealings with U.S. entities.

Martinez allegedly offered to keep them off the SDN list if they made large payments to Martinez and others.

Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, Martinez's attorney, said that her client is innocent.

"We disagree with the government 100-percent. Agent Martinez has been a law enforcement agent for over 20 years. He has dutifully served his country. He denies every single paragraph of that indictment and is looking forward to a trial where is innocence will be proven," said Pinera-Vazquez.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement: "ICE takes accusations of misconduct very seriously. As the matter is currently under investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment on this specific case. As public servants working for a law enforcement agency, every employee at ICE is held to the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct."

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