NEW YORK — An Army colonel commanding the military's anti-drug operation in Colombia knew his wife--who has admitted dealing drugs--was involved in money laundering but failed to turn her in, prosecutors revealed Monday.
In a letter to a federal judge, prosecutors said James Hiett, 48, has agreed to plead guilty to ignoring a felony committed by his wife, Laurie. The charge carries up to three years in prison.
It was the first time the colonel was at all connected to the scandal, but prosecutors refused to detail the case against him. His attorney, Abraham Clott, did not return a phone call.
Laurie Hiett, 36, pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges in January, saying she shipped packages containing $700,000 worth of drugs to New York City. She also admitted traveling to New York to collect the illicit proceeds to take back to Colombia--an act falling under the legal definition of money laundering.
At the time, Laurie Hiett told reporters she purposely kept her husband in the dark.
"At one point, he may have asked me why I was going to New York," she said. "I just told him, 'Don't ask me.' "
An investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Division in Panama has cleared Hiett, saying he had no knowledge of his wife's crimes. Prosecutors in Brooklyn, however, had insisted their investigation was not over.
Army spokesman Harvey Perritt said Hiett remains on active duty at Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Va., where he was transferred after the allegations arose against his wife. He said military officials would not comment on the case.
Laurie Hiett--an admitted cocaine addict--surrendered to authorities last August after they intercepted two 1.2-kilogram packages of heroin that she allegedly mailed to New York from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
One of her co-defendants, Hernan Arcila, 54, has pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy. Another co-defendant, Jorge Ayala, is awaiting extradition in Colombia.
Laurie Hiett, who is free on bond, faces up to nine years in prison at sentencing April 28. Her husband is to enter his plea on April 17.