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Financial Crimes
02/10/2010

Virginia resident pleads guilty to bribing former Panamanian government officials

WASHINGTON - A Virginia resident pleaded guilty today in connection with his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) and the FBI.

John W. Warwick, 64, of Virginia Beach, Va., pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC) in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Warwick was indicted on Dec. 15, 2009. PECC, a company incorporated under the laws of Panama, was affiliated with an engineering firm based in Virginia Beach. According to the indictment, PECC was created so that Warwick, co-conspirator Charles Jumet, the engineering firm and others could corruptly obtain certain maritime contracts from the Panamanian government.

According to court documents, Warwick and Jumet participated in a conspiracy to pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials for awarding contracts to PECC to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama's waterway. In December 1997, the Panamanian government awarded PECC a no-bid 20-year concession to perform these duties. Upon receipt of the concession, Warwick, Jumet and others authorized corrupt payments to be made to the Panamanian government officials.

In connection with his guilty plea, Warwick admitted that at least from 1997 through approximately July 2003, he, Jumet and others conspired to make corrupt payments totaling more than $200,000 to the former administrator and deputy administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority and to a former, high-ranking elected executive official of the Republic of Panama.

As part of his plea agreement, Warwick has agreed to forfeit $331,000, which represents the proceeds of this crime. At sentencing, scheduled for May 14, 2010, at 10:30 a.m. before Judge Hudson, Warwick faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss.

"When corrupt business dealings reach into the realm of maritime contracts, it can compromise the safety and security of the United States as well as other nations," said John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington, D.C. "ICE will continue to work with our law enforcement partners both here and abroad to stop these bribery schemes."

Jumet pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2009, to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for PECC, in violation of the FCPA, and making a false statement. Jumet is scheduled to be sentenced on March 26, 2010.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rina Tucker Harris of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Dry of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI's Washington and Richmond Field Offices, as well as by ICE.