Sargeant Marine – The Individual Guilty Pleas

Thomas Fox
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Compliance Evangelist

We rarely have seen a single Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement action generate so many individual criminal pleas. The Sargeant Marine Inc. (Sargeant Marine) case is an exception. To date, there have been six guilty pleas sustained. The single best resource for all things FCPA enforcement related is the Stanford Law School Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Clearinghouse, a collaboration with Sullivan & Cromwell LLC. The following information came from the reference material from the site, which detailed the following guilty pleas from individuals in this matter. 

Daniel Sargeant was an executive and part owner of Sargeant Marine and its related companies from approximately 2006 through 2016. Sargeant’s responsibilities included seeking, approving, and overseeing contracts with Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), Brazil’s state-owned oil company, and Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

Between approximately 2010 and 2018, Sargeant conspired to pay bribes to foreign officials in Brazil and Venezuela in order to secure contracts and other benefits for Sargeant Marine. In Brazil, Sargeant conspired to obtain and retain business with Petrobras by bribing employees and Brazilian politicians. As a result of the bribery scheme, Sargeant Marine secured contracts with a total value in excess of approximately $185 million. In Venezuela, Sargeant conspired to pay bribes to various PDVSA officials in order to, among other things: (a) purchase asphalt from PDVSA; (b) acquire inside, non-public information from PDVSA to obtain an improper advantage in the purchase and sale of asphalt; and (c) recover certain late fees, called demurrage fees, owed by PDVSA to a Swiss asphalt company related to Sargeant Marine.

On December 18, 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a two count Information against Sargeant alleging conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Sargeant pled guilty on the same date but the plea agreement has not been released.

Jose Tomas Meneses worked as a trader at Sargeant Marine between 2012 and 2018. According to the documents in this case, between 2012 and May 2018, Meneses conspired to pay bribes to various officials at PDVSA, to purchase asphalt from PDVSA, to acquire inside, non-public information to obtain an improper advantage in the purchase and sale of asphalt, and to recover certain late fees, called demurrage fees, owed by PDVSA to Swiss Asphalt Company, an entity related to Sargeant Marine.

On June 8, 2018, the DOJ filed a complaint against Meneses and on August 2, 2018, the DOJ filed a single count Information against Meneses alleging conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Meneses pled guilty on the same date but the plea agreement has not been released. 

Hector Nunez Troyano was an employee at the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PDVSA, between 2008 and February 2015. At PDVSA, Troyano was involved in the sale of asphalt. According to the documents in this case, between 2011 and 2018, Troyano was both a beneficiary and participant in two conspiracies to pay bribes to various officials at PDVSA. Troyano accepted bribes in the form of commissions for every barrel of asphalt purchased from PDVSA by an unnamed asphalt company. After resigning from PDVSA, Troyano acted as an agent to pay bribes on behalf of Sargeant Marine to officials at PDVSA.

On February 20, 2019, the DOJ initiated a case against Troyano filing a single count Information alleging conspiracy to commit money laundering. Troyano pled guilty on the same date but the plea agreement has not been released.

David Diaz worked as an agent in Venezuela for Sargeant Marine and a second unnamed asphalt company. According to the documents in this case, between 2012 and 2018, Diaz engaged in two conspiracies to pay bribes to various officials at PDVSA. First, Diaz acted as an agent for the Swiss Asphalt Company to pay commissions to a PDVSA official for every barrel of asphalt purchased from PDVSA. Second, Diaz acted as an agent for Sargeant Marine to purchase asphalt from PDVSA, to acquire inside, non-public information to obtain an improper advantage in the purchase and sale of asphalt, and to recover certain late fees, called demurrage fees, owed by PDVSA to a Swiss asphalt company related to Sargeant Marine.

On March 28, 2018, the DOJ filed a two-count Information against Diaz alleging conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Diaz pled guilty on the same date but the plea agreement has not been released.

Luiz Eduardo Andrade worked as an agent for Sargeant Marine in Brazil from approximately the end of 2009 through at least early 2016. Andrade’s responsibilities included seeking contracts with Petrobras, for Sargeant Marine and its related companies. Between 2010 and 2017, Andrade conspired to pay bribes to several Brazilian officials on behalf of Sargeant Marine and associated companies so that they could obtain and retain business with Petrobras. Andrade facilitated bribe payments to at least two Petrobras officials and two Brazilian politicians by using, among other things, US and Swiss bank accounts and shell companies incorporated in the Marshall Islands.

On September 22, 2017, the DOJ filed a single count Information in the Eastern District of New York against Andrade alleging a conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. According to the docket, Andrade pled guilty on the same day but the plea agreement has not been released.

Roberto Finocchi worked as a trader for Sargeant Trading, Ltd. Co. and related companies from approximately 2006 through 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, Finocchi conspired with others to pay bribes to Brazilian government officials and Petrobras officials. The bribes were made through intermediary consultants and shell companies and were made in order to obtain business for Sargeant Marine and its associated companies.

On November 17, 2017, the DOJ filed a single count Information against Finocchi alleging conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Finocchi pled guilty on the same day, but the plea agreement has not been released.

One can only conclude that Sargeant Marine was one corrupt organization. Join me tomorrow where I conclude with some lessons learned.

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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