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U.S. intelligence analyst charged with extortion held on bail

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. intelligence analyst charged with trying to orchestrate a covert heist of hundreds of thousands of dollars of drug money while working for the Pentagon's top secret Defense Intelligence Agency, made his first appearance in a south Florida federal court Monday.

Jose Emmanuel Torres, 37, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week and charged with bribery, extortion and misusing U.S. government computers. If convicted he faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

United States Magistrate Judge Patrick M. Hunt set bail at

$250,000.

Torres held the rank of gunnery sergeant and joined the Marines in 1999, Marine Corps spokesman Major Mike Alvarez said late on Monday. At the time of his arrest Torres was stationed at the U.S. Southern Command, near Miami, as an intelligence specialist with the U.S. Marine Corps.

He was deployed to Iraq from September 2009 to January 2010 and was stationed on the USS Iwo Jima from August 2008 to March 2009.

The charges stem from 2012 and 2013 when Torres was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), investigating terrorism and drug trafficking, according to court documents.

FBI agent Mario Garcia Tariche said in an affidavit filed in the case that Torres told a cooperating drug trafficking witness facing immigration charges that he would "put his neck on the line" to make his problems go away for $10,000. He is also accused of having demanded names of Costa Rican, Puerto Rican and Miami drug dealers in hopes of staging a robbery.

The witness reported Torres to law enforcement and the FBI began monitoring his communications.

According to the affidavit, in November 2013 the witness gave Torres the names of two Colombian citizens under investigation by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Torres used FBI databases to glean information about the two and discussed details of the robbery with the witness and an undercover FBI agent on Skype, the mobile messaging service WhatsApp, and other digital channels, according to the document.

The three planned to steal $500,000 in cash belonging to drug dealers from a car left in a strip mall parking lot, according to the affidavit.

Torres agreed to provide proof that the $500,000 was being seized by the DEA while the undercover agent would be able to use the same proof to show the owners of the money in Colombia that it was taken, the document said. The witness stated there would be other cash deliveries possibly totaling $5 million.

Torres was to receive $250,000 for providing the documents, according to the affidavit.

(Editing by David Adams)

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