Thursday, September 20, 2018
Business

Tampa-based author of 'The Infiltrator' and others involved in book and movie sued on defamation claim

The grandson of the former president of Colombia has filed suit in Pinellas County claiming he was defamed in the book and film versions of The Infiltrator, a memoir by Robert Mazur of a money laundering investigation launched in Tampa Bay that rattled Pablo Escobar's drug cartel and rocked the international banking industry.

Portions of the movie, starring Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad TV show fame, were filmed around Tampa Bay. The movie held a red-carpet premiere at the Tampa Theater in July. Mazur has retired as a federal agent and lives in the Tampa Bay area.

RELATED: Q&A with Robert Mazur, author behind the Bryan Cranston Infiltrator movie

Francisco Javier Ospina Baraya said in the complaint filed in circuit court on Sept. 14 that the book and movie falsely portray him as being deeply involved with Colombian drug cartels, laundering money for the Medellin cartel, trafficking in cocaine and being an accomplice to terrorism, violence and murder.

The memoir also asserts that Javier Ospina Baraya joined the vigilante hit squad known as "Los Pepes," a violent paramilitary group formed and financed by drug traffickers. The film portrays him "as a hedonistic, bisexual member of the Medellin cartel, who drinks alcohol and uses drugs in excess," the suit states.

None of the assertions are true, according to the suit. Javier Ospina Baraya is "a succeessful businessman, a family man who has been happily married for 38 years, with four children, and does not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs," the suit states.

The suit asks the court to order Mazur and 10 other defendants — book publishers and film production and distribution companies — to remove all references to Javier Ospina Baraya in books and copies of the movie, to cease and desist distribution of copies of the book and movie containing false and defamatory statements and monetary damages.

RELATED: Tampa's Robert Mazur talks about life behind The Infiltrator

The defendants could not be reached for comment.

Javier Ospina Baraya, grandson of former Colombian President Mariano Ospina Perez, lives in Madrid, Spain. The suit said he has suffered substantial injury, harm, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation and shame.

The Infiltrator traces the five-year undercover investigation code named "Operation C-Chase," after the Calibre Chase apartments in Tampa where it was launched in 1986. As wealthy businessman Robert Musella, Mazur bonded with cocaine cartel chiefs and money launderers, gathering evidence resulting in 85 indictments, the conviction of former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega and the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

RELATED: Here are the spots around Tampa Bay that show up in The Infiltrator.

Hillsborough County approved a $250,000 incentive package for filming portions of the movie here in April and May 2015. A study commissioned by the Tampa-Hillsborough County Film & Digital Media Commission said it yielded direct and indirect economic impacts of nearly $1 million.

Contact Jerome R. Stockfisch at [email protected]

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