A federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida returned an indictment last week, which was unsealed today, charging a Florida man and two Ecuadorian citizens, who reside in Costa Rica, for their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme to obtain business from Ecuadorian state-owned insurance companies.
According to court documents, Esteban Eduardo Merlo Hidalgo, 50, of Miami, Christian Patricio Pintado Garcia, 49, of Costa Rica, and Luis Lenin Maldonado Matute, 52, of Costa Rica, allegedly conspired to pay bribes to officials of Ecuador’s state-owned insurance companies Seguros Sucre S.A. and Seguros Rocafuerte S.A. to obtain and retain business for themselves, an intermediary company, and reinsurance clients. The intermediary company also allegedly received a portion of the brokerage commission obtained from Seguros Sucre and Seguros Rocafuerte and used those funds, in part, to make the bribe payments. As further alleged in the indictment, the co-conspirators laundered funds related to the bribery scheme to and from bank accounts in Florida and used the proceeds for their personal benefit.
Merlo, Pintado, and Maldonado are each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years; one substantive violation of the FCPA, which carries a maximum penalty of five years; conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years; and four counts of engaging in transactions involving criminally derived property, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years for each count. Merlo made his initial court appearance this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Pintado and Maldonado remain at large. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum total penalty of 60 years in prison. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Washington, D.C. office; and Special Agent in Charge John J. Bernardo of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.
This case is being investigated by IRS-CI and FBI, jointly under the auspices of the Global Illicit Financial Team.
Trial Attorneys Alexander Kramer, Katherine Raut, Drew Bradylyons, and James Mandolfo of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.