Florida businessman sentenced for role in Venezuela bribery scheme
HOUSTON – A former general manager and partial owner of a Florida-based energy company was sentenced to 48 months in prison today for his role in a scheme to corruptly secure contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
Juan Jose Hernandez Comerma (Hernandez), 54, of Weston, Florida, pleaded guilty Jan. 10, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and one count of violating the FCPA.
Today, U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller of the Southern District of Texas imposed the four-year term and further ordered Hernandez to pay a fine of $127,000 and forfeit $3 million.
According to admissions made in connection with Hernandez’s plea, Hernandez conspired with U.S.-based businessmen Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas (Shiera) and Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez (Rincon) to pay bribes and other things of value to PDVSA purchasing analysts. This ensured that Shiera’s and Rincon’s companies were placed on PDVSA bidding panels, which enabled the companies to win lucrative energy contracts with PDVSA. From 2008 until 2012, while general manager and, later, partial owner of one of Shiera’s companies, Hernandez provided recreational travel and entertainment and offered bribes to PDVSA officials, including Alfonzo Eliezer Gravina Munoz (Gravina), based on a percentage of contracts the officials helped to award to Shiera’s companies.
Rincon, Shiera and Gravina have all also pleaded guilty in the case and await sentencing.
Hernandez is the sixth defendant to be sentenced as part of a larger, ongoing U.S. government investigation into bribery at PDVSA. Including Hernandez, Rincon, Shiera and Gravina, to date, the Justice Department has announced charges against 25 individuals, 19 of whom have pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston is conducting the ongoing investigation with assistance from HSI in Boston. Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) John Pearson and Robert S. Johnson of the Southern District of Texas (SDTX) are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorneys Jeremy R. Sanders, Sarah E. Edwards and Sonali D. Patel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. SDTX AUSA Kristine Rollinson is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case.
The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Swiss Federal Office of Justice also provided assistance.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Please see the Justice Department’s FCPA page for more information.