Two executives from U.S.-based energy companies pleaded guilty Tuesday to foreign bribery charges involving payments to officials at Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
Juan Jose Hernandez Comerma (Hernandez), 51, of Weston, Florida, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violating the FCPA. He's a former general manager and partial owner of a Florida-based company.
Charles Quintard Beech III, 46, of Katy, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He owns several Texas-based companies.
The defendants appeared before federal judge Gray Miller in Houston. Sentencing for both was set for July 14, 2017.
From 2011 to 2012, Beech bribed several PDVSA officials in exchange for help putting his companies on PDVSA bidding panels and getting paid for previously awarded PDVSA contracts.
Hernandez admitted he conspired with U.S.-based businessmen Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas (Shiera) and Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez (Rincon) to pay bribes to PDVSA purchasing analysts.
While he was general manager and later part owner of one of Shiera’s companies, Hernandez gave PDVSA officials travel and entertainment and cash bribes. The bribes were based on a percentage of contracts the officials helped award to Shiera’s companies.
One of the PDVSA officials who took bribes from Hernandez and Beech was Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz (Gravina). He pleaded guilty in December 2015 in federal court in Houston to conspiracy to launder bribe money and to making false statements on his 2010 U.S. federal income tax return.
Two other former PDVSA employees -- Jose Luis Ramos Castillo, 38, Christian Javier Maldonado Barillas, 39, both from Katy, Texas -- have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Shiera pleaded guilty in March 2016 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and commit wire fraud and one count of violating the FCPA.
Rincon pleaded guilty in June last year to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, one count of violating the FCPA, and one count of making false statements on his 2010 federal income tax return.
Rincon supplied PDVSA with $500 million in oil equipment a year, "becoming one of the state oil firm’s most important contractors, according to former senior executives of the oil firm," the Wall Street Journal said.
Moises Abraham Millan Escobar, 32, of Katy, Texas, was Shiera’s former employee. He pleaded guilty earlier to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA for bribing PDVSA officials.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.