The president of a company based in Miami, as well as one of its former sales representatives, hoped to gain access to more work and receive payment of past due invoices by bribing officials at Venezuela’s state energy company.
The two men involved are Rafael Enrique Pinto Franceschi, referred to as Pinto, and Franz Herman Muller Huber, referred to as Muller. Pinto lives in Miami and is the president of the company in question at the age of 40, while Muller was a former sales representative for that company and is currently living in Weston, Florida at the age of 68.
Pinto and Muller were charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to launder money, and one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Act. Altogether these two were charged in a five-count indictment in the Southern District of Texas on February 21, 2019.
There were three officials of Venezuela, more specifically Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. or PDVSA, that have been accused of being allegedly bribed by Pinto and Muller, two of which, Jose Camacho and Ivan Guedez of Houston, have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting their sentencing in this case. The DOJ has charged 21 individuals in the PDVSA bribery case with 15 of them having pleaded guilty.
Pinto and Muller were allegedly giving these bribes in exchange for the help winning PDVSA contracts and also gaining information that would help them obtain payments on past due invoices. The U.S. Department of Justice had reported that when the Miami-based company did receive payment from the PDVSA, three percent would be placed into a Swiss bank account.
According to Cornell Law School, “Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty.”. While many understand what bribery is as a general term, the actual act of bribery in the legal world can be complicated to discern. In order to prove bribery, one must also show how the recipient had altered their behavior in relation to what they received, and it must be a clear demonstration of change. There can be varying types and levels of severity when it comes to the act of bribery in the corporate world, and what Pinto and Muller allegedly did would be considered a highly illegal act.
On top of the alleged bribing of PDVSA officials, the partnership of Pinto and Muller took kickbacks according to the indictment. Pinto received $985,000, while Muller received more than $258,000.
As opposed to straightforward bribery, Cornell Law School describes kickbacks as, “a term used to refer to a misappropriation of funds that enriches a person of power or influence who uses the power or influence to make a different individual, organization, or company richer. Often, kickbacks result from a corrupt bidding scheme.”.
Looking ahead, Pinto and Muller, as well as the Venezuelan officials, will be hoping for a fair settlement in this case of bribery.
Those who are interested in gaining more information about cases like this, or who want to keep up-to-date on the latest legal proceedings, can find more details at Jeffrey Newman Law!