Former Venezuelan official charged in connection with international bribery and money laundering scheme
HOUSTON, TX -- Charges were unsealed today against a former official at Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.
Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio, 48, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen is charged for his alleged role in laundering the proceeds of a scheme involving bribes made to corruptly secure business advantages from Citgo and PDVSA. A federal grand jury in Houston returned the six-count indictment July 16. It was unsealed today upon his initial appearance in federal court.
De Jongh, a former procurement officer and manager in Citgo’s Special Projects Group, is charged with one count of conspiracy to launder money and five counts of money laundering. The indictment alleges that beginning in or around 2013 and continuing through at least 2019, De Jongh agreed to accept bribe payments from businessmen such as Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez, a Venezuelan national and Houston resident, and others in exchange for assisting the businessmen and related companies in conducting business with Citgo and PDVSA. According to the indictment, De Jongh received over $2.5 million in bribe payments through the scheme. In return he allegedly provided improper business advantages to Gonzalez and Farias to assist them with procuring Citgo and PDVSA contracts.
The indictment further alleges that De Jongh directed bribe payments from Gonzalez, Farias and others to be made to bank accounts in the names of shell companies in Panama and Switzerland. In some instances, he also allegedly directed the creation of fake invoices to justify payments. De Jongh then laundered the bribe proceeds through U.S. bank accounts and used most of the funds to purchase real property located in the Southern District of Texas (SDTX), according to the charges. De Jongh also allegedly received gifts and other things of value from Gonzalez, Farias and others including tickets to a 2014 World Series Game, Super Bowl XLIX and a U2 concert. Gonzalez and Farias have already entered guilty pleas in connection with the case.
With the unsealing of the indictment today, the Justice Department has announced charges against 27 individuals, 20 of whom have pleaded guilty, as part of a larger, ongoing investigation by the U.S. government into bribery at PDVSA. HSI in Houston is conducting the ongoing investigation with assistance from HSI in Boston and Miami. Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) John P. Pearson and Robert S. Johnson of the SDTX are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorneys Sarah E. Edwards and Sonali D. Patel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. SDTX AUSA Kristine E. Rollinson is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
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An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.