Los Angeles Times
Ex-FBI agent gets 6 years for bribery
Judge tries to balance work he did for U.S. against his activities with organized crime.
Babak Broumand stood in a courtroom on Monday in shackles and a white jumpsuit as a federal judge balanced the ledger of his life.
There was the work Broumand did as an FBI agent, thwarting terrorist plots and threats from hostile nations. Some missions were so secret they could not even be discussed in court.
And then there were the bribes he took from an organized crime figure.
“Where do you go?” U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner asked before sentencing Broumand to six years in prison — four years less than what prosecutors had requested.
Broumand, 56, worked for two decades in the FBI’s San Francisco field office before retiring in 2019 beneath a cloud of suspicion, as evidence emerged that he had pocketed cash and accepted lavish perks from Edgar Sargsyan, a prolific con man.
After a two-week trial, a jury in October found Broumand guilty of bribery, conspiring to commit bribery and money laundering while acquitting him of two counts of bribery and money laundering.
The panel sided with the government’s argument that Sargsyan had given Broumand bribes and other valuables — a motorcycle, escorts and stays at luxury hotels — in exchange for Broumand’s access to secret law enforcement databases to monitor investigations into Sargsyan and his associates.
Sargsyan, who held himself out as an attorney while making millions from identity theft, drug dealing and other rackets, has pleaded guilty to bank fraud, lying to federal authorities and bribing Broumand and another federal agent, Felix Cisneros.
Cisneros was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Sargsyan has yet to be sentenced.
In testimony at his own trial, Broumand claimed that Sargsyan was a source of information for the FBI and denied that their relationship was improper.
Sargsyan said that his boss — Levon Termendzhyan, a petroleum magnate who has since been convicted of defrauding the federal government — was supplying oil to the Turkish government and involved in oil sales with the Islamic State terrorist organization, Broumand testified.
Broumand denied taking cash from Sargsyan and said he accepted a red Ducati motorcycle against his better judgment, without providing anything in return.
At Monday’s sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Morse pointed to Broumand’s admission that as a counterintelligence agent, he was “trained in the art of deception.”
During his testimony, Broumand spun “alternative narratives that sounded like they came out of a spy novel,” Morse said. He asked the judge to consider what he characterized as Broumand’s perjury, requesting a decade in prison for the former agent.
Before Broumand addressed the judge, Klausner reminded him of his “ongoing and lifelong responsibility” not to disclose classified information. Standing with his wrists and ankles chained together, Broumand said that after fleeing Iran as a child, “I fell in love with this country, and its freedom, that I adopted. And it adopted me.”
Of his work for the FBI, Broumand said, “I was able to save countless lives, your honor, and I was basically able to change the course of history to the benefit of the United States.”
He apologized for accepting what he described as “gifts” but maintained that he considered Sargsyan a friend and did not know him to be involved in criminal activity.
In requesting a sentence of no more than 18 months,
Broumand’s attorney, Steven Gruel, submitted evidence of the awards the FBI agent received over his career.
They included not only accolades from the FBI but also a plaque with the inscription, “In appreciation for all your support, from your CIA colleagues in San Francisco,” and another that read, “To Babak Broumand, from your friends at MI5,” the United Kingdom’s domestic security service.
Gruel also filed with the court a letter written by Frank Montoya Jr., a retired FBI official who supervised Broumand at the bureau’s San Francisco office from 2009 to 2011.
Broumand “worked for me in tough and dangerous places around the world, often with little to protect him but his own wits,” Montoya wrote.
“The kind of work that Babak did, often in the shadows of a gray and treacherous world, frequently has a debilitating impact on those who do it,” he continued.
Before handing down the six-year sentence, Klausner said Montoya’s letter was “extremely important in this case.” He pointed not to the praise or the psychological insights but to another line: “There should be consequences for breaking the law, especially amongst those who occupy positions of trust.”