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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sargeant Marine Inc. Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay Over $16 Million in Criminal Fines to Resolve Foreign Bribery Case

Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Sargeant Marine Inc., an asphalt company incorporated and formerly headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $16.6 million to resolve foreign bribery charges stemming from conduct by the company and its employees and agents in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador.  In each one of the countries, the company paid bribes to government officials to obtain contracts to purchase or sell asphalt to the countries’ state-owned companies in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).   Today’s proceedings took place by video before the United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano.  Previously, a corporate executive for Sargeant Marine, Daniel Sargeant; two Sargeant Marine traders who were active in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador, Roberto Finocchi and Jose Tomas Meneses; an agent and a consultant who acted as bribe intermediaries in Brazil and Venezuela, Luiz Eduardo Andrade and David Diaz; and a former Venezuelan government official, Hector Nunez Troyano, who received some of the bribes, pled guilty.  In addition, on September 10, 2020, a criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn charging another former Venezuelan official with conspiracy to commit money laundering, in part for his alleged role in the Sargeant Marine Venezuela scheme.

Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brian C. Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Calvin A. Shivers, Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigtion, Criminal Investigative Division (FBI), announced the guilty pleas and resolution.

“Today’s resolution is the result of a multi-year, multi-national, collaborative effort to root out corruption perpetrated by an American company in three countries,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme.  “We will continue to investigate and prosecute any company that corrupts foreign government officials in order to gain a competitive edge, as well as any of their executives and employees who participate in those efforts.”

“With today’s guilty plea, Sargeant Marine has admitted to engaging in a long-running pattern of paying bribes to corrupt officials in three South American countries to obtain lucrative business,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Rabbitt.  “Today’s resolution, together with charges the department has brought against individuals involved in Sargeant Marine’s illegal schemes, demonstrates the department’s continuing commitment to holding companies and their executives responsible for international corruption.” 

“The FBI is dedicated to rooting corruption out of our market, keeping the United States fair for vendors and consumers alike," stated FBI Assistant Director Shivers.  “Sargeant Marine, Inc. attempted to get ahead of competitors by paying bribes to foreign officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  As today's guilty pleas demonstrate, the FBI will relentlessly investigate those attempting to cheat the market, and we will bring them to justice.”

According to the Statement of Facts stipulated to by Sargeant Marine in connection with its guilty plea and other court documents, between approximately 2010 and 2018, Sargeant Marine, through its employees and agents, conspired to pay bribes to foreign officials in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador to secure lucrative contracts.  As a result of these bribes, Sargeant Marine and its affiliated companies earned profits of over $38 million.  

In Brazil, Sargeant Marine and its related companies bribed officials at the state-owned oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. - Petrobras (Petrobras), to obtain contracts to sell asphalt to Petrobras.  From approximately 2010 to 2015, Sargeant Marine and its affiliates, through its employees and agents, concealed bribe payments to Brazilian government officials by creating fake consulting contracts and fake invoices by using cash payments and by wiring millions of dollars from the United States to offshore bank accounts held in the name of shell companies of bribe middlemen.  As a result of the Brazilian bribery scheme, Sargeant Marine and its affiliated companies earned profits of approximately $26.5 million.

The conduct in Brazil began when a Sargeant Marine senior executive officer traveled to Brazil in January 2010 in an effort to identify an agent with connections to a government official who could help the company obtain business from Petrobras.  Eventually, the company began paying bribes to a “lobbyist” who was known to receive payments for his connections to Petrobras officials.  At a dinner arranged by the Sargeant Marine intermediary with a Petrobras official and a Brazilian politician, the intermediary promised bribes in return for securing contracts between Petrobras and Sargeant Marine.  After a company affiliated with Sargeant Marine completed shipments of asphalt to Petrobras in August 2010, the affiliate’s executive emailed Daniel Sargeant stating, “Wow guess last Brazil trip with crooks paid off.  Should go again before contract next year gets hot and heavy.”

Between approximately 2012 and 2018, Sargeant Marine engaged in similar conduct in Venezuela, this time to purchase asphalt from the state-controlled oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).  Sargeant Marine and its affiliates—which had been blacklisted by PDVSA—used a Swiss company that would resell the asphalt to Sargeant Marine at a small premium.  As it did in Brazil, Sargeant Marine concealed the bribes by creating fake consulting contracts and fake invoices and by making payments to offshore bank accounts held by a bribe middleman.  The bribe middleman then paid bribes to a PDVSA official. Sargeant Marine’s bribe payments also gave it access to non-public information from PDVSA officials to give Sargeant Marine a corrupt edge on its competition.  As a result of the Venezuela bribery scheme, Sargeant Marine earned about $8.2 million in profits.

Sargeant Marine paid bribes to an official working for Empresa Publica de Hidrocarburos del Ecuador (Petroecuador), a state-owned oil company of Ecuador that needed asphalt to supply the country.  Sargeant Marine and its affiliates used the same tactics as in Brazil and Venezuela to conceal bribe payments, made through an intermediary to a Petroecuador official, which were made to secure a contract with Petroecuador.  As a result of this scheme, Sargeant Marine earned profits of approximately $3.2 million.   

In September 2017, Andrade pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.  In November 2017, Finocchi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States.  In March 2018, Diaz pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to violate the FCPA.  In August 2018, Meneses pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.  In March 2019, Troyano pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.  In December 2019, Daniel Sargeant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  The defendants are awaiting sentencing.

The investigation is being conducted by FBI's International Corruption squad in Miami. The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Whitman Knapp, Mark E. Bini and Andrey Spektor of the Eastern District of New York and Fraud Section Trial Attorney Derek J. Ettinger are prosecuting the case.

The government of Brazil provided significant assistance in this matter, as did the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

The Defendant:

SARGEANT MARINE, INC.

E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 20-CR-363 (ENV)

DANIEL SARGEANT
Age: 53
Florida, United States

E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 19-CR-319 (ENV)

ROBERTO FINOCCHI
Age: 58
Country of Origin: Venezuela

E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 17-CR-600 (ENV)

JOSE TOMAS MENESES
Age: 65
Country of Origin: Venezuela

E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 18-CR-358 (ENV)

LUIZ EDUARDO ANDRADE
Age: 61
Country of Origin: Brazil

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-497 (ENV)

DAVID DIAZ
Age: 56
Country of Origin: Venezuela

E.D.N.Y. Docket No.: 18-CR-140 (ENV)

Hector Nunez Troyano
Age: 43
Country of Origin: Venezuela

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-135 (ENV)

 

Topic(s): 
Foreign Corruption
Contact: 
John Marzulli United States Attorney’s Office (718) 254-6323
Updated September 22, 2020