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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 8, 2019

Venezuelan Minister And Former Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah Charged With Violations Of The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act

EL AISSAMI and SAMARK JOSE LOPEZ BELLO Violated U.S. Sanctions In Connection With Their Use of Private Jets, Including February 23, 2019 Return Flight by EL AISSAMI from Russia to Venezuela

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Angel M. Melendez, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today that former Venezuelan Vice President TARECK ZAIDAN EL AISSAMI MADDAH (“EL AISSAMI”) and Venezuelan businessman SAMARK JOSE LOPEZ BELLO were charged in Manhattan federal court with criminal violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”) and sanctions imposed in February 2017 by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) pursuant to the Kingpin Act.  Related charges under the Kingpin Act were also filed against VICTOR MONES CORO, ALEJANDRO MIGUEL LEON MAAL, MICHOLS ORSINI QUINTERO, and ALEJANDRO ANTONIO QUINTAVALLE YRADY.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.  MONES CORO and ORSINI QUINTERO were arrested this morning in Florida.  MONES CORO appeared this morning before a United States Magistrate Judge in West Palm Beach, and ORSINI QUINTERO appeared this morning before a United States Magistrate Judge in Fort Lauderdale.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “International sanctions restrain the activities of individuals and countries deemed to have policies and practices incompatible with the U.S. from receiving the full benefit of economic, political, humanitarian, and other support the U.S. provides globally.  Former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah allegedly evaded the sanctions imposed by OFAC by employing U.S. companies to provide international transport via private jet.  The enforcement of these sanctions is critical to the national security interests of the U.S., and I commend our law enforcement partners for their vigilance and assistance in bringing today’s charges.”

Special Agent in Charge Melendez said:  “Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah has held key positions in the Government of Venezuela, including that of former Vice President and current Minister of Industry and National Production.  He has used his position of power to engage in international drug trafficking, earning him the designation of Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker, along with his business partner Samark Lopez Bello. It is alleged that those arrested today, looking to fill their pockets with dirty money, aided El Aissami and Lopez Bello in circumventing sanctions and violating the Kingpin Act, an OFAC designation targeting those who pose a threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. El Aissami and Lopez Bello allegedly used private jets to set up private meetings around the globe including Turkey and Russia. It is necessary to impose sanctions against foreign persons seeking to gain power and control by circumventing the law, and today’s indictments reflect HSI New York’s El Dorado Task Force resolve in holding those willing to violate such sanctions accountable.  Both El Aissami and Lopez Bello will have to think twice before leaving Venezuela, as they are wanted to face justice here in New York.”

As alleged in the Indictment and Superseding Indictments unsealed in federal court:[1]

EL AISSAMI became the Vice President of Venezuela in approximately January 2017.  In February 2017, OFAC designated EL AISSAMI and LOPEZ BELLO as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations.  As a result of OFAC’s designations, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from, among other things, engaging in transactions with or providing services to EL AISSAMI and LOPEZ BELLO absent authorization from OFAC.  EL AISSAMI and LOPEZ BELLO nevertheless worked with, among others, U.S. citizens MONES CORO and LEON MAAL, as well as ORSINI QUINTERO and QUINTAVALLE YRADY, who held U.S. visas at the time of the crimes, in an effort to violate and evade OFAC’s sanctions by obtaining travel services, including private jet charters for EL AISSAMI, LOPEZ BELLO, and their relatives and associates.  EL AISSAMI and LOPEZ BELLO paid for these services at times through intermediaries who delivered bulk cash in Venezuela. 

EL AISSAMI, LOPEZ BELLO, MONES CORO, and LEON MAAL used American Charter Services LLC and its affiliates, all U.S. companies, in connection with the transportation services provided to EL AISSAMI and LOPEZ BELLO in violation of the Kingpin Act and the OFAC sanctions.  For example, in September 2018, MONES CORO used an American Charter Services account in the United States to pay expenses for an upcoming private flight by LOPEZ BELLO.  EL AISSAMI, LOPEZ BELLO, MONES CORO, and LEON MAAL also used SVMI Solution, LLC, another U.S. company, to receive payments for transportation services provided to EL AISSAMI and LOPEZ BELLO in violation of the Kingpin Act and the OFAC sanctions, such as a July 2018 funds transfer sent from Manhattan, New York to an SVMI Solution account in Florida.  Earlier this year, LEON MAAL helped EL AISSAMI charter a private flight from Vnukovo International Airport in Russia to Simón Bolívar International Airport in Venezuela on February 23, 2019. 

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EL AISSAMI, 44, of Venezuela, LOPEZ BELLO, 44, of Venezuela, MONES CORO, 51, of Florida, and LEON MAAL, 41, of Florida, are each charged in five counts:  (1) conspiring to use American Charter Services LLC and SVMI Solution, LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, and to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations, (2) using American Charter Services LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, (3) using American Charter Services LLC to evade and attempt to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations, (4) using SVMI Solution, LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, and (5) using SVMI Solution, LLC to evade and attempt to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations.  If convicted, each of the five counts carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, for a total maximum of 150 years in prison on all accounts faced by EL AISSAMI, LOPEZ BELLO, MONES CORO, and LEON MAAL.

ORSINI QUINTERO, 42, of Florida, and QUINTAVALLE YRADY, 36, of Panama, are each charged with one count of conspiring to use American Charter Services LLC and SVMI Solution, LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, and to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations.  If convicted, this count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, the DEA’s Miami Field Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and OFAC.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emil J. Bove III and Amanda L. Houle are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment and Superseding Indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  The potential maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictments and the description of the Indictments set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated March 8, 2019