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Florida Road Trip Nixed; Trial Delay Requested

A defendant in the Haiti telco case scheduled to be tried on February 28 is asking for a delay until July.

Joel Esquenazi told Judge Jose E. Martinez in federal court in Miami this week that the lawyer representing him and co-defendant Carlos Rodriguez has another trial in Houston that may conflict with his court dates. Judge Martinez said he'll decide on February 18 whether to delay the trial.

Esquenazi and Rodriguez, the owners of a Florida-based telco company, were indicted in December 2009 and charged with conspiring to make corrupt payments to officials of state-owned Telecommunications D’Haiti. They face one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.

Prosecutors say the sentencing guideline range for convictions of the alleged offenses is between 121 and 151 months in prison.

Esquenazi is now on pre-trial release. Last month, the court denied his request to travel by car from Miami to Tallahassee, Florida to visit his college-student daughter over a weekend. Esquenazi made the request just two days before the proposed trip and hadn't made arrangements to check in with pretrial services in Tallahassee to verify his whereabouts.

His bond is $150,000. On pretrial release, he's required to maintain electronic monitoring, keep a curfew from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am, surrender his passport, report regularly to the pretrial services office, maintain employment, and avoid contact with victims or witnesses to the crimes charged.

He appealed against the electronic monitoring. In September 2010, the court refused to lift it, "specifically finding that the special condition was appropriate based upon the nature and circumstances of the offense, the weight of the evidence, and the history and characteristics of Mr. Esquenazi, including the fact that he has traveled internationally for business, and the substantial period of incarceration he faces if convicted."

A U.S. magistrate noted last year that "Esquenazi was born in Cuba in 1959, entered the United States at age 10, and is a naturalized United States citizen. He resides with his wife and three adult children. He reported travel during the past five years to Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. He is self-employed in the telecommunications field, and has substantial assets."

Also indicted in the case and facing trial in federal court in Miami are Jean Rene Duperval, who was director of international relations for state-owned Telecommunications D’Haiti in 2003 and 2004, and Duperval’s sister, Marguerite Grandison. 

*     *     *

Four other defendants in the case have already pleaded guilty:

Robert Antoine, 62, of Miami and Haiti, a former employee of Telecommunications D’Haiti was sentenced to 48 months in prison in June last year after he  pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was also ordered to pay $1,852,209 in restitution, to forfeit $1,580,771, and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.

Antonio Perez, 52, of Miami, the controller of a Florida-based telco company, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to forfeit $36,375. He pleaded guilty in April 2009 to conspiring to make corrupt payments to officials of Telecommunications D’Haiti in violation of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering laws.

In July 2010, Juan Diaz, 51, was sentenced to 57 months in prison after pleading guilty to paying and concealing $1,028,851 in bribes to former Haitian government officials while serving as an intermediary for three private telecommunications companies. 

And in February 2010, Jean Fourcand, 62, pleaded guilty to money laundering. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

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