DOJ Secures Guilty Plea and Charges A Second Former PDVSA Official with Money Laundering

Michael Volkov
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The Volkov Law Group

The Justice Department continues to pursue criminal cases against Venezuelan officials at Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) in an attempt to strangle President Nicolas Maduro.  DOJ has been pursuing a three-pronged strategy by bringing cases in the New York, Miami and Houston federal courts.  DOJ has been pursuing officials who have left Venezuela and now reside in Spain and other European locations. 

DOJ has charged 27 individuals, 21 of whom have pleaded guilty.  With the full force of federal criminal laws and extradition treaties, DOJ’s effort is accelerating and will continue.

DOJ’s latest guilty plea and charges against a former PDVSA official reflects its continuing commitment to prosecute corrupt foreign officials by charging them with money laundering officials.

Lennys Rangel Guilty Plea

Rangel, a former procurement officer at PDVSA subsidiary, Citgo Petroleum Corporation in Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy for her role in a bribery and money laundering scheme. 

Rangel was previously head of procurement at Petroceden SA, a PDVSA joint venture with two European oil companies, and was accused of conspiring to launder millions in bribe payments by purchasing a condominium in Miami.  Ms. Rangel accepted bribes to help secure contracts for Petrocedeno.

Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio (De Jongh) Indictment

In early August, DOJ unsealed a six-count indictment against De Jongh, a former official at Citgo, charging him with one count of money laundering conspiracy and five substantive counts of money laundering stemming from his role in laundering the proceeds of a bribery scheme.

De Jongh was a former procurement officer and manager in Citgo’s Special Projects Group.  The bribery and money laundering scheme began in 2013 and continued until 2019. De Jongh accepted bribery payments from businessmen, including Jose Manuel Testino (Gonzalez) and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez (Farias) for assisting the businessman in securing business with Citgo and PDVSA.

Gonzalez and Farias were previously charged in Houston, Texas, with FCPA and money laundering violations.  Gonzalez and Farias cooperated in the ongoing investigation leading to the charges against Rangel and De Jongh. 

The indictment alleges that De Jongh received over $2.5 million in bribe payments and, in exchange, he provided business advantages to Gonzalez and Farias to secure contracts with Citgo and PDVSA.

De Jongh directed bribe payments from Gonzalez, Farias and others to bank accounts maintained by shell companies in Panama and Switzerland.  In some cases, De Jongh directed the creation of fake invoices to justify payments.

De Jongh laundered the bribery payments he received through U.S. bank accounts and then purchased real property in the Houston, Texas area.  De Jongh also received gifts and other things of value from Gonzalez and Farias, and others, including tickets to the 2014 World Series, Super Bowl XLIX and a U2 concert.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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