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September 13, 2018Houston, TX, United StatesFinancial Crimes

Texas business executive pleads guilty in scheme to bribe Venezuelan official

WASHINGTON – A former U.S.-based logistics and freight forwarding company manager pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to a foreign bribery charge for his role in a scheme to corruptly secure contracts and contract extensions from Venezuela’s state-owned, and state-controlled, energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).  The guilty plea of the foreign official who was bribed was also unsealed Thursday. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston is conducting the ongoing investigation, with assistance from HSI Boston and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. 

Juan Carlos Castillo Rincon (Castillo), 55, of Conroe, Texas, previously of Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Castillo is scheduled to be sentenced, Feb. 21, 2019. 

The guilty plea of the PDVSA official whom Castillo bribed – Jose Orlando Camacho (Camacho), 46, of Miami, Florida, previously of Katy, Texas – was also unsealed.  In July 2017, Camacho pleaded guilty under seal to conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Camacho is also scheduled to be sentenced, Feb. 21, 2019.

“Foreign bribery schemes like this pose a significant threat to the public trust and fair trade practices,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson, HSI Houston.  “Today’s pleas are a step in the right direction, but we will continue to aggressively investigate individuals and corporations who violate the FCPA to ensure a fair and equal playing field for U.S. companies and consumers.”

Castillo was arrested in Miami on April 19, after a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment against him.  According to admissions made in connection with Castillo’s plea, beginning in or around 2011 and continuing through at least 2013, Castillo, a manager at a Houston-based logistics and freight forwarding company, conspired with others to bribe a PDVSA official in exchange for assisting the company in obtaining PDVSA contracts, contract extensions and favorable contract terms; providing Castillo with inside information concerning the PDVSA bidding process; and supporting the company in internal PDVSA meetings regarding purchasing decisions.

As part of his guilty plea, Camacho admitted that while employed by PDVSA or its wholly owned subsidiaries or affiliates, he accepted bribes from Castillo and the logistics and freight forwarding company for which Castillo was a manager in exchange for taking certain actions to assist the company in its business with PDVSA.  Camacho also admitted that he conspired with Castillo to launder the proceeds of the bribery scheme. 

As part of their plea agreements, both Castillo and Camacho have agreed to forfeit the proceeds of their criminal activity. 

With Castillo’s plea and the unsealing of Camacho’s plea, 18 individuals have now been charged in connection with the investigation, with 14 of the 18 already having pleaded guilty. 

Updated: 10/16/2018