WASHINGTON – A former executive of an Orange County, Calif.-based valve company pleaded guilty today in connection with his role in a conspiracy to pay approximately $1 million in bribes to numerous foreign government officials, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien of the Central District of California and Joseph Persichini Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office announced.
Mario Covino, 44, an Italian citizen and resident of Irvine, Calif., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James V. Selna in Santa Ana, Calif., to a one-count information charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for the Orange County valve company from state-owned enterprises in several countries, including Brazil, China, India, Korea, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
According to court documents, the valve company designed and manufactured service control valves for use in the nuclear, oil and gas, and power generation industries worldwide. Covino was the director of worldwide factory sales at the valve company from March 2003 through August 2007. In this position, Covino was responsible for overseeing new construction projects and the replacement of existing valves made by other companies and installed at customer plants in more than 30 countries.
In connection with his guilty plea, Covino admitted that from March 2003 through August 2007, he caused employees and agents of the valve company to make corrupt payments totaling approximately $1 million to foreign officials employed at state-owned enterprises in order to assist in obtaining and retaining business for the valve company. Covino also admitted that the valve company earned approximately $5 million in profits from the contracts it obtained as a result of these corrupt payments. According to the court documents, the corrupt payments were made to foreign officials at state-owned entities including, but not limited to, Petrobras (Brazil), Dingzhou Power (China), Datang Power (China), China Petroleum, China Resources Power, China National Offshore Oil Company, PetroChina, Maharashtra State Electricity Board (India), KHNP (Korea), Petronas (Malaysia), Dolphin Energy (UAE) and Abu Dhabi Company for Oil Operations (UAE).
Covino also admitted to providing false and misleading responses to internal auditors during a 2004 internal audit of the company’s commission payments, and to deleting emails and instructing others to delete emails that referred to corrupt payments, for the purpose of obstructing the internal audit.
As part of his plea agreement, Covino has agreed to cooperate with the Department in its ongoing investigation. At sentencing, scheduled for July 20, 2009, Covino faces a maximum of five years in prison.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief Hank Bond Walther and Trial Attorney Andrew Gentin of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas McCormick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.