WASHINGTON – The former president of Terra Telecommunications Corp. was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for his role in a scheme to pay bribes to Haitian government officials at Telecommunications D’Haiti S.A.M. (Haiti Teleco), a state-owned telecommunications company. This is the longest sentence ever imposed in a case involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The former executive vice president of Terra was also sentenced today to 84 months in prison for his role in the bribery scheme.
The sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida; and Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office.
Joel Esquenazi, 52, of Miami, and Carlos Rodriguez, 55, of Davie, Fla., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez in the Southern District of Florida. Judge Martinez also ordered the defendants to forfeit $3.09 million.
Esquenazi and Rodriguez were convicted in August 2011 of one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and wire fraud; seven counts of FCPA violations; one count of money laundering conspiracy; and 12 counts of money laundering.
“This sentence – the longest sentence ever imposed in an FCPA case – is a stark reminder to executives that bribing government officials to secure business advantages is a serious crime with serious consequences,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “A company’s profits should be driven by the quality of its goods and services, and not by its ability and willingness to pay bribes to corrupt officials to get business. As today’s sentence shows, we will continue to hold accountable individuals and companies who engage in such corruption.”
“Today’s long prison sentences confirm the serious consequences of ignoring corporate ethics when doing business abroad,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “The FCPA ensures that American businesses are not up for sale.”
“These individuals created a sophisticated way to launder funds by creating shell corporations and false records to conceal bribe payments to foreign government officials,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez. “No matter how sophisticated the scheme, IRS special agents will uncover it and unscrupulous individuals and businesses will be held accountable for their actions as indicated by these sentences.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, Esquenazi was the president and Rodriguez was the executive vice president of Terra, which was headquartered in Miami-Dade County, Fla. Haiti Teleco was the sole provider of land line telephone service in Haiti. Terra had a series of contracts with Teleco that allowed the company’s customers to place telephone calls to Haiti.
At trial, the evidence showed that the defendants participated in a scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from November 2001 through March 2005, during which time the telecommunications company paid more than $890,000 to shell companies to be used for bribes to Teleco officials. Esquenazi and Rodriguez authorized these bribe payments to successive directors of international relations at Teleco.
The purpose of these bribes, according to the evidence presented at trial, was to obtain various business advantages from the Haitian officials for Terra, including the issuance of preferred telecommunications rates, reductions in the number of minutes for which payment was owed, and the continuance of Terra’s telecommunications connection with Haiti. To conceal the bribe payments, the defendants used various shell companies to receive and forward the payments. In addition, they created false records claiming that the payments were for “consulting services,” which were never intended to be performed or actually performed.
Four other individuals were previously convicted and sentenced for their roles in the bribery scheme.
On April 27, 2009, Antonio Perez, a former controller at Terra, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. On Jan. 12, 2010, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison, which he is currently serving.
On May 15, 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribe money from telecommunications companies. On July 30, 2010, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison, which he is currently serving.
On Feb. 19, 2010, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribe monies in the scheme. On May 5, 2010, he was sentenced to six months in prison.
On March 12, 2010, Robert Antoine, a former director of international affairs for Haiti Teleco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. On June 2, 2010, he was sentenced to 48 months in prison, which he is currently serving.
In a superseding indictment, Washington Vasconez Cruz, Amadeus Richers, Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Patrick Joseph, Jean Rene Duperval and Marguerite Grandison are charged in a related scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from December 2001 through January 2006. No trial date is currently set. An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The government’s investigation is ongoing. The Department of Justice is grateful to the government of Haiti for continuing to provide substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation. In particular, Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE), which is a specialized component of the Haitian National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security provided significant cooperation and coordination in this ongoing investigation.
To learn more about the government’s FCPA enforcement efforts, go to www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa .
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorneys Nicola J. Mrazek and James M. Koukios of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aurora Fagan of the Southern District of Florida. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section also provided assistance in this matter. The cases were investigated by the IRS-CID Miami Field Office.