New York - The long-time former head of the
Nicaraguan soccer federation who most recently was employed by FIFA pleaded not
guilty to racketeering charges on Wednesday after he became the last of seven
men extradited after their arrests in Zurich last year.
Julio Rocha, 65, entered the plea in
Brooklyn federal court through his lawyer, William Sullivan.
Rocha was the last of seven men, including
two FIFA vice presidents, to be extradited after a raid last May in Zurich
exposed what officials described as a sprawling bribery scheme that had
infested the governing body of international soccer. Six were extradited to the
United States and one man was extradited to Uruguay.
Rocha was freed on $1.5 million bail after
agreeing to submit to electronic monitoring and stay at a Florida residence
Friends and family, some in the Los Angeles and San Francisco
areas, were expected to sign his bond, posting homes, stock and cash to back it
up. He also was banned from communicating with various FIFA entities or their
Outside court, Rocha's attorney declined
The bespectacled defendant, wearing a black
coat, spoke to Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy through an interpreter, asking
at one point if he had to return to New York for future court proceedings. Levy
told him the case was based there so he would.
"You must be a little tired,"
Levy told him after he was accompanied on his flight from Zurich to New York by
US law enforcement officials.
Rocha was the long-time Nicaraguan soccer
federation president before leaving in 2012. That was when FIFA hired him as a
Panama-based development officer for Central America.
Rocha's final appeal against a US
extradition request was rejected by Switzerland's Supreme Court on May 9.
A Brooklyn indictment said Rocha received a
$100,000 bribe from sports marketing company Traffic linked to the sale of
marketing rights for Nicaragua's qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup.
The indictment alleged $150 000 was wired
in May 2011 from a bank in Miami to an account in Rocha's name at a bank in
Madrid, Spain. He kept $100 000 and gave $50 000 to another sports official who
was not identified, authorities alleged.
Rocha is among more than 40 soccer and
marketing officials and marketing agencies to have been indicted or to have
pleaded guilty in the United States since charges were unsealed in May 2015.
The scandal initially left FIFA in turmoil.