Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez Convicted by a Federal Jury on All Counts for Their Involvement in the Scheme to Bribe Haiti Officials

August 7, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida on August 5, 2011 released the following:

“TWO TELECOMMUNICATIONS EXECUTIVES CONVICTED BY MIAMI JURYON ALL COUNTS FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN SCHEME TO BRIBE OFFICIALS AT STATE-OWNED TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY IN HAITI

Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez, former executives of Terra Telecommunications Corp., have been convicted by a federal jury on all counts for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to Haitian government officials at Telecommunications D’Haiti S.A.M (Haiti Teleco), a state-owned telecommunications company. The jury reached its verdict yesterday after five hours of deliberations, following a two-and-a-half-week trial.

The convictions were announced by U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office.

“These individuals conspired and made corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business advantages for their company,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “The FCPA helps to create a more level playing field in which businesses can compete fairly and sends the message that American businesses are simply not up for sale.”

“These defendants authorized more than $800,000 in illegal bribe payments to Haitian officials in exchange for business advantages – a clear violation of the FCPA,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “This verdict is another powerful example that bribery of government officials – whether at home or abroad – has serious consequences. In finding the defendants guilty on all charged counts, the jury sent an unmistakable message that paying off foreign officials does not, in fact, pay off.”

“These convictions send a strong and clear message that we will aggressively pursue investigations on subjects that use shell companies to launder funds,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez. “IRS-CID will utilize its financial investigative expertise to unravel any complex money laundering scheme leaving no financial stones unturned.”

Joel Esquenazi, 52, of Miami, and Carlos Rodriguez, 55, of Davie, Fla., were convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and wire fraud; seven counts of FCPA violations; one count of money laundering conspiracy; and 12 counts of money laundering.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Esquenazi was the president and Rodriguez was the executive vice president of Terra, which was headquartered in Miami-Dade County, Fla. Haiti Teleco was the sole provider of land line telephone service in Haiti. Terra had a series of contracts with Teleco that allowed the company’s customers to place telephone calls to Haiti.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants participated in a scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from November 2001 through March 2005, during which time the telecommunications company paid more than $890,000 to shell companies to be used for bribes to Teleco officials. Esquenazi and Rodriguez authorized these bribe payments to successive directors of international relations at Teleco.

The purpose of these bribes, according to the evidence presented at trial, was to obtain various business advantages from the Haitian officials for Terra, including the issuance of preferred telecommunications rates, reductions in the number of minutes for which payment was owed, and the continuance of Terra’s telecommunications connection with Haiti. To conceal the bribe payments, the defendants used various shell companies to receive and forward the payments. In addition, they created false records claiming that the payments were for “consulting services,” which were never intended to be performed or actually performed.

Esquenazi was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. Rodriguez remains free on bond. Sentencing for both defendants currently is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2011.

On April 27, 2009, Antonio Perez, a former controller at Terra, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. On Jan. 12, 2010, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison, which he is currently serving.

On May 15, 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribe money from telecommunications companies. On July 30, 2010, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison, which he is currently serving.

On Feb. 19, 2010, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribe monies in the scheme. On May 5, 2010, he was sentenced to six months in prison.

On March 12, 2010, Robert Antoine, a former director of international affairs for Haiti Teleco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. On June 2, 2010, he was sentenced to 48 months in prison, which he is currently serving.

In a superseding indictment, Washington Vasconez Cruz, Amadeus Richers, Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Patrick Joseph, Jean Rene Duperval and Marguerite Grandison are charged in a related scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from December 2001 through January 2006. No trial date is currently set. An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA and wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The conspiracy to commit money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The indictment also seeks forfeiture which will determined by the court at a later date.

The government’s investigation is ongoing. The Department of Justice is grateful to the government of Haiti for continuing to provide substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation. In particular, Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE), which is a specialized component of the Haitian National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security provided significant cooperation and coordination in this ongoing investigation.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Florida Telecommunications Company, Two Executives, an Intermediary and Two Former Haitian Government Officials Indicted for Their Alleged Participation in Foreign Bribery Scheme

July 13, 2011

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on July 13, 2011 released the following press release:

“WASHINGTON – Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Cinergy’s president and director, the president of Florida-based Telecom Consulting Services Corp. and two former Haitian government officials have been charged in a superseding indictment for their alleged roles in a foreign bribery, wire fraud and money laundering scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office.

According to the superseding indictment, the defendants allegedly participated in a scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from December 2001 through January 2006. The indictment alleges that during this time period Cinergy and its related company, Uniplex Telecommunications Inc., allegedly paid more than $1.4 million to shell companies to be used for bribes to foreign officials of the Republic of Haiti’s state-owned national telecommunications company, Telecommunications D’Haiti (Haiti Teleco).

According to court documents, Cinergy and Uniplex executed a series of contracts with Haiti Teleco that allowed the companies’ customers to place telephone calls to Haiti. The bribe payments allegedly were authorized by Washington Vasconez Cruz, the telecommunications companies’ president, and Amadeus Richers, the companies’ director, and were allegedly paid to Haitian government officials at Haiti Teleco, including Patrick Joseph and Jean Rene Duperval. According to the superseding indictment, the purpose of these bribes was to obtain various business advantages from the Haitian officials for Cinergy and Uniplex, including preferred telecommunications rates and credits toward sums owed. To conceal the bribe payments, the defendants allegedly used various shell companies to receive and forward the payments, including J.D. Locator Services, Fourcand Enterprises and Telecom Consulting Services.

The six defendants charged in the superseding indictment are:

  • Washington Vasconez Cruz, 63, of Miami, the president of Cinergy and Uniplex, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud, six counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering;
  • Amadeus Richers, 60, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Brazil, the then-director of Cinergy and Uniplex, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, six counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering;
  • Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., a privately-held telecommunications company incorporated in Florida, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, six counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering;
  • Patrick Joseph, 49, of Miami and Haiti, a former general director for telecommunications at Haiti Teleco, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering;
  • Jean Rene Duperval, 44, of Miramar, Fla., and Haiti, a former director of international relations for telecommunications at Haiti Teleco, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering; and
  • Marguerite Grandison, 42, of Miramar, the former president of Telecom Consulting Services Corp., and Duperval’s sister, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering.

The superseding indictment also charges Duperval and Grandison with laundering corrupt payments authorized by Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez on behalf of another Florida telecommunications company.
Duperval was charged previously in the indictment returned on Dec. 7, 2009, with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering. Grandison was previously charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.
Esquenazi and Rodriguez were charged in the initial December 2009 indictment and are unaffected by the superseding indictment. They are scheduled to stand trial on July 18, 2011.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA and wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The conspiracy to commit money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The superseding indictment also gives notice of criminal forfeiture.

On May 15, 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribe money from telecommunications companies. On July 30, 2010, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

On Feb. 19, 2010, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribe monies in the scheme. On May 5, 2010, he was sentenced to six months in prison.

On March 12, 2010, Robert Antoine, the former director of international affairs for Haiti Telco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. On June 2, 2010, he was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

The government’s investigation is ongoing. The Department of Justice is grateful to the government of Haiti for continuing to provide substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation. In particular, Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE), which is a specialized component of the Haitian National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security provided significant cooperation and coordination in this ongoing investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorneys Nicola J. Mrazek and James M. Koukios of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. The Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division also provided assistance in this matter. The cases were investigated by the IRS-CI Miami Field Office.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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