Former Venezuelan Official Charged in Connection with International Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

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).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas (SDTX) and Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston made the announcement.

Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio (De Jongh), 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.

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 including Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino, (Gonzalez), a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez (Farias), 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 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. 

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. 

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. Trial Attorneys Sarah E. Edwards and Sonali D. Patel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) John P. Pearson and Robert S. Johnson of the SDTX are prosecuting the case. SDTX AUSA Kristine E. Rollinson is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General of Panama also provided assistance.

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.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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    According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data for 2017 through 2019, over 50 helicopter operators conducted approximately 88,000 helicopter flights within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (D.C. area), though limited data on noise from these flights exist. According to operators, these flights supported various missions (see table below). While the number of flights has decreased slightly over the 3 years reviewed, it is unknown whether there has been a change in helicopter noise in the area. For example, most stakeholders do not collect noise data, and existing studies of helicopter noise in the area are limited. D.C. area airspace constraints—such as lower maximum altitudes near urban areas—combined with proximity to frequently traveled helicopter routes and operational factors may affect the noise heard by residents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-Reported Helicopter Flights Conducted in the Washington, D.C. Area by Operator Mission, 2017–2019 Operator mission Number of flights Military 32,890 (37.4 percent) Air medical 18,322 (20.9 percent) Other aviation activity 13,977 (15.9 percent)a State and local law enforcement 12,861 (14.6 percent) Federal law enforcement and emergency support 5,497 (6.3 percent) News 4,298 (4.9 percent) Source: GAO analysis of FAA data. | GAO-21-200 Note: In this table, we refer to the Washington, D.C. area as including the area within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. aIncludes 666 flights for which FAA could not identify an operator or mission based on available historical records. FAA and operators reported taking steps to address public concerns about helicopter noise in the D.C. area. FAA receives and responds to complaints on helicopter noise from the public through its Noise Ombudsman and has recently developed online forms that improve FAA's ability to identify and respond to helicopter noise issues. Operators reported using FAA-recommended practices, such as flying at maximum altitudes and limiting night flights, to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area, but such practices are likely not feasible for operators with military, law enforcement, or air medical evacuation missions. FAA's and operators' approach to addressing these issues in the D.C. area is impeded because they do not consistently or fully share the information needed to do so. According to nearly all the operators we interviewed, FAA has not communicated with operators about helicopter noise or forwarded complaints to them. Similarly, operators often receive noise complaints from the public—some complaints are not directed to the correct operator—but do not typically share these complaints with FAA. As a result, operators have not consistently responded to residents' inquiries about helicopter noise and activity. By developing a mechanism for FAA and operators to share information, FAA could help improve responses to individual helicopter noise concerns and determine what additional strategies, if any, are needed to further address helicopter noise. Helicopter noise can potentially expose members of the public to a variety of negative effects, ranging from annoyance to more serious medical issues. FAA is responsible for managing navigable U.S. airspace and regulating noise from civil helicopter operations. Residents of the D.C. area have raised concerns about the number of helicopter flights and the resulting noise. GAO was asked to review issues related to helicopter flights and noise within the D.C. area. Among its objectives, this report examines: (1) what is known about helicopter flights and noise from flights in the D.C. area, and (2) the extent to which FAA and helicopter operators have taken action to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, policies, and documents on helicopter noise. GAO analyzed (1) available data on helicopter operations and noise in the D.C. area for 2017 through 2019, and (2) FAA's approach to responding to helicopter complaints. GAO also interviewed FAA officials; representatives from 18 D.C. area helicopter operators, selected based on operator type and number of flights; and 10 local communities, selected based on factors including geography and stakeholder recommendations. GAO recommends that FAA develop a mechanism to exchange helicopter noise information with operators in the D.C. area. FAA agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
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  • Imposter Nurse Sentenced to Prison for Fraud and Tax Evasion
    In Crime News
    A nurse formerly employed by an Ann Arbor, Michigan, health care consultancy was sentenced to 65 months in prison for defrauding employers of over $2.2 million and evading more than $697,000 in taxes, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan.
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  • Justice Department Welcomes Passage of The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020
    In Crime News
    On Jan. 13, 2021, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020 (the “Act”), which limits the antitrust exemption available to health insurance companies under the McCarran-Ferguson Act.  The Act, sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio, passed the House of Representatives on Sept. 21, 2020 and passed the Senate on Dec. 22, 2020. 
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  • Operators of California Charity Scam Sentenced to Prison for Mail Fraud Conspiracy and Tax Evasion
    In Crime News
    Geraldine Hill and Clayton Hill, a California couple who operated a charity that purported to provide goods to the needy, were sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax evasion. Geraldine Hill was sentenced to 15 months in in prison, and Clayton Hill was sentenced to 9 months in prison, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer, Jr. for the Southern District of California.
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  • Justice Department Settles with Minnesota-Based Company to Resolve Discrimination Claims Under the Immigration and Nationality Act
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with WinCraft, Incorporated (WinCraft), a Minnesota-based sports manufacturing company with locations in Iowa, Florida, and Washington. The settlement resolves claims that WinCraft violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by requiring lawful permanent residents to provide specific work authorization documentation without any legal justification because of their immigration status. 
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  • Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit Securing $342,500 for Two Female Firefighters and Changes to the Houston Fire Department’s Training Practices
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the City of Houston resolving allegations that personnel at Houston Fire Department (HFD) Station 54 discriminated and retaliated against former firefighter Jane Draycott in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion.   
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