Congressman George Santos Charged with Fraud, Money Laundering, Theft of Public Funds, and False Statements
Guilty Pleas for Eight Others, Including Jeffrey Webb and the Former Presidents of the Colombian and Chilean Soccer Federations, also Announced
A 92-count superseding indictment was unsealed earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging an additional 16 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with their participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer. The superseding indictment also includes additional charges for seven of the defendants still pending extradition following the return of the original indictment last May. The guilty pleas of eight defendants – including Jeffrey Webb, Alejandro Burzaco and José Margulies, three of the defendants indicted last May – were also announced today.
The new defendants charged in the superseding indictment include high-ranking officials of FIFA, the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as high-ranking officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella. The defendants Alfredo Hawit and Juan Ángel Napout – the current presidents of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, respectively, as well as current FIFA vice presidents and Executive Committee members – are among the 16 additional soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses. CONCACAF and CONMEBOL are two of FIFA’s six continental confederations. The new defendants also include Marco Polo del Nero and Ricardo Teixeira, the current and former presidents of the Brazilian soccer federation, both of whom are also former members of the FIFA Executive Committee, as well as José Luís Meiszner and Eduardo Deluca, the current and former general secretaries of CONMEBOL. Within UNCAF, the Central American regional soccer union operating within CONCACAF, the charges in the superseding indictment name the current and/or former presidents of nearly every country in the region: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Taken together, the 27 defendants in the superseding indictment are alleged to have engaged in a number of schemes all designed to solicit and receive well over $200 million in bribes and kickbacks to sell lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches, among other valuable rights and properties.
The charges were announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, FBI Director James B. Comey, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Diego G. Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York Field Office, Chief Richard Weber of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office.
Early this morning, Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested two of the defendants charged in the superseding indictment – Hawit and Napout – at the request of the United States. Also this morning, a search warrant was executed at Media World, a sports marketing company based in Miami.
The new charges unsealed today bring the total number of individuals and entities charged to date to 41. Of those, 12 individuals and two sports marketing companies have already been convicted as a result of the ongoing investigation. The convicted defendants have agreed to pay more than $190 million in forfeiture. In addition, more than $100 million has been restrained in the United States and abroad in connection with the alleged criminal activity. The United States has issued mutual legal assistance requests seeking the restraint of assets located in 13 countries around the world.
“The Department of Justice is committed to ending the rampant corruption we have alleged amidst the leadership of international soccer – not only because of the scale of the schemes, or the brazenness and breadth of the operation required to sustain such corruption, but also because of the affront to international principles that this behavior represents,” said Attorney General Lynch. “The message from this announcement should be clear to every culpable individual who remains in the shadows, hoping to evade our investigation: You will not wait us out. You will not escape our focus.” Attorney General Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the authorities of the government of Switzerland for their continuing outstanding assistance and collaboration in this investigation, and to the authorities in a number of other countries, including Brazil and Colombia, for their assistance as well.
“For decades, these defendants used their power as the leaders of soccer federations throughout the world to create a web of corruption and greed that compromises the integrity of the beautiful game,” said Director Comey. “I want to thank all the agencies for their hard work and for showing the world that we do not tolerate this criminal activity.”
“The charges unsealed today send a clear message to those who corrupted a sport beloved by millions to satisfy their own greed: We are determined to put a stop to bribery and corruption in international soccer and to make room for a new era of integrity and reform,” said U.S. Attorney Capers. “This indictment is the latest step in that effort, but our work is not done. While our investigation continues at home, we also look forward to continuing our collaboration with our international partners, including in particular the Swiss authorities, because there is so much yet to be done.” Mr. Capers extended his thanks to the agents, analysts and other investigative personnel with the FBI New York Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Squad and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office, as well as their colleagues in the United States and abroad, for their continuing tremendous effort in this case. Mr. Capers also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for its continuing assistance.
“The brazenness with which the individuals indicted today breached the integrity of the U.S. financial system to promote and conceal their criminal schemes is quite alarming,” said Chief Weber. “While it is one of the most complex worldwide financial investigations ever conducted, it is also an eye opener to everyone that such greed and corruption could be hiding in plain sight within the world’s most popular sport. By conspiring to enrich themselves through bribery and kickback schemes relating to media and marketing rights, the defendants undermined the process of fair and open competition, corrupting the beautiful game for their own personal gain.”
The charges in the superseding indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Overview of the Superseding Indictment
As alleged in the superseding indictment, FIFA and its six continental confederations – including CONCACAF, headquartered in the United States, and CONMEBOL, the confederation headquartered in South America – together with affiliated regional federations, national member associations and sports marketing companies, constitute an enterprise of legal entities associated in fact for purposes of violating the federal racketeering laws. The principal – and entirely legitimate – purpose of the enterprise is to regulate and promote the sport of soccer worldwide.
Like the original indictment, the superseding indictment alleges that between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering. Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks. All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.
The schemes alleged in the original indictment related to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks by soccer officials from sports marketing executives in connection with the commercialization of the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer matches and tournaments, as well as schemes related to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of the Brazilian soccer federation by a major U.S. sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.
The new allegations in the superseding indictment relate to a series of bribery schemes in connection with multiple cycles of FIFA World Cup qualifiers and international friendly matches involving six Central American member associations within UNCAF; a bribery scheme implicating many top CONMEBOL officials relating to the sale of broadcasting rights to the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores over an extended period; and a scheme by an Argentinian sports marketing company to obtain various rights properties from CONCACAF by paying bribes to three Central American soccer officials to cause them to exert their influence in favor of the company.
The 16 New Defendants
As set forth in the superseding indictment, the 16 newly-indicted defendants are all current or former soccer officials who acted at various times in a fiduciary capacity within FIFA and one or more of its constituent organizations:
CONCACAF Region Officials
Alfredo Hawit: Current FIFA vice president and Executive Committee member and CONCACAF president. Former CONCACAF vice president and Honduran soccer federation president.
Ariel Alvarado: Current member of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. Former CONCACAF Executive Committee member and Panamanian soccer federation president.
Rafael Callejas: Current member of the FIFA Television and Marketing Committee. Former Honduran soccer federation president and former president of the Republic of Honduras.
Brayan Jiménez: Current Guatemalan soccer federation president and member of the FIFA Committee for Fair Play and Social Responsibility.
Rafael Salguero: Former FIFA Executive Committee member and Guatemalan soccer federation president.
Héctor Trujillo: Current Guatemalan soccer federation general secretary and judge on the Constitutional Court of Guatemala.
Reynaldo Vasquez: Former Salvadoran soccer federation president.
CONMEBOL Region Officials
Juan Ángel Napout: Current FIFA vice president and Executive Committee member and CONMEBOL president. Former Paraguayan soccer federation president.
Manuel Burga: Current member of the FIFA Development Committee. Former Peruvian soccer federation president.
Carlos Chávez: Current CONMEBOL treasurer. Former Bolivian soccer federation president.
Luís Chiriboga: Current Ecuadorian soccer federation president and member of the CONMEBOL Executive Committee.
Marco Polo del Nero: Current president of the Brazilian soccer federation. Announced resignation from FIFA Executive Committee on Nov. 26, 2015.
Eduardo Deluca: Former CONMEBOL general secretary.
José Luis Meiszner: Current CONMEBOL general secretary.
Romer Osuna: Current member of the FIFA Audit and Compliance Committee. Former CONMEBOL treasurer.
Ricardo Teixeira: Former Brazilian soccer federation president and FIFA Executive Committee member.
The Convicted Defendants
The following defendants previously pleaded guilty under seal and agreed to forfeit more than $40 million:
On May 26, 2015, Zorana Danis, the co-founder and owner of International Soccer Marketing Inc., a New Jersey-based sports marketing company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging her with wire fraud conspiracy and filing false tax returns. As part of her plea, Danis agreed to forfeit $2 million.
On Nov. 9, 2015, Fabio Tordin, the former CEO of Traffic Sports USA Inc. and currently an executive with Media World LLC, a Miami-based sports marketing company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. As part of his plea, Tordin agreed to forfeit more than $600,000.
On Nov. 12, 2015, Luis Bedoya, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee, a CONMEBOL vice president and, until last month, the president of the Federación Colombiana de Fútbol, the Colombian soccer federation, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. As part of his plea, Bedoya agreed to forfeit all funds on deposit in his Swiss bank account, among other funds.
On Nov. 16, 2015, Alejandro Burzaco, the former general manager and chairman of the board of Torneos y Competencias S.A., an Argentinian sports marketing company, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Burzaco agreed to forfeit more than $21.6 million.
On Nov. 17, 2015, Roger Huguet, the CEO of Media World and its parent company, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Huguet agreed to forfeit more than $600,000.
On Nov. 23, 2015, Jeffrey Webb, a former FIFA vice president and Executive Committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union Executive Committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association president, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and three counts of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Webb agreed to forfeit more than $6.7 million.
On Nov. 23, 2015, Sergio Jadue, a vice president of CONMEBOL and, until last month, the president of the Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Profesional de Chile, the Chilean soccer federation, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. As part of his plea, Jadue agreed to forfeit all funds on deposit in his U.S. bank account, among other funds.
On Nov. 25, 2015, José Margulies, the controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd, who served as an intermediary who facilitated illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and two counts of money laundering conspiracy. As part of his plea, Margulies agreed to forfeit more than $9.2 million.
As previously announced last May, all money forfeited by the defendants is being held in reserve to ensure its availability to satisfy any order of restitution entered at sentencing for the benefit of any individuals or entities that qualify as victims of the defendants’ crimes under federal law.
The indicted and convicted defendants face maximum terms of incarceration of 20 years for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges. In addition, Tordin and Danis face maximum terms of five and three years in prison, respectively, for the tax charges. Each defendant also faces mandatory restitution, forfeiture and a fine.
The superseding indictment and guilty pleas unsealed today are assigned to the U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York.
The government’s investigation is ongoing.
The charges and guilty pleas announced today are part of an investigation into corruption in international soccer being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, the FBI’s New York Field Office and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office. The work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office involves prosecutors from the National Security and Cybercrime Section, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Business and Securities Fraud Section and the Public Integrity Section. The prosecutors in Brooklyn are receiving considerable assistance from attorneys in various parts of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in Washington, D.C., including the Office of International Affairs, the Organized Crime and Gang Section, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the Fraud Section, as well as from INTERPOL Washington.
The charges and guilty pleas announced today are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amanda Hector, Darren A. LaVerne, Samuel P. Nitze, M. Kristin Mace, Paul Tuchmann, Keith D. Edelman, Tanya Hajjar and Brian D. Morris of the Eastern District of New York.
The Newly-Indicted Defendants:
MARCO POLO DEL NERO
JOSÉ LUÍS MEISZNER
JUAN ÁNGEL NAPOUT
Nationality: El Salvador
The Convicted Defendants:
Nationality: USA, Spain
Nationality: Cayman Islands
E.D.N.Y. Docket Numbers:
United States v. Zorana Danis, 15 Cr. 240 (RJD)
United States v. Jeffrey Webb et al., 15 Cr. 252 (RJD)
United States v. Fabio Tordin, 15 Cr. 564 (RJD)
United States v. Luis Bedoya, 15 Cr. 569 (RJD)
United States v. Sergio Jadue, 15 Cr. 570 (RJD)
United States v. Roger Huguet, 15 Cr. 585 (RJD)