Two more Americans have been convicted in for participating in a scheme to obtain contracts from the Venezuelan national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA. (PDVSA)*. Juan Jose Hernandez Comerma of Florida and Charles Quintard Beech of Texas were both convicted of criminal conspiracy. Hernandez was also convicted of a foreign bribery charge.
The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prohibits the bribing of foreign officials in the hope of gaining a business advantage. The United States has joined dozens of other countries in prohibiting foreign bribery. Congress wants all businesses to compete on a level playing field. Those that pay bribes shouldn’t be given an advantage over those that follow the law.
Foreign Bribery Charges Against Jose Hernandez
According to court records, Hernandez served as manager of a company that supplied equipment and services to PDVSA. One of the purchasing managers for the Venezuelan state owned oil company was Alfonzo Gravina. Although a US citizen living in Houston, the FCPA still considers Gravina to be a foreign official.
Prosecutors say Hernandez made and paid for a hotel reservation in New York City for Gravina. When he paid for the hotel, Hernandez emailed Gravina and said, “I take care of you.”
Later Hernandez would facilitate the payment of $14, 502 for hotel bills in Miami for another PDVSA employee. He also assisted in making wore transfers to a bank account controlled by Gravina. Prosecutors say that the travel and cash transfers were made to facilitate contract awards from PDVSA.
Foreign Bribery Charge Against Charles Beech
Beach was convicted of behavior very similar to that of Hernandez. Prosecutors say Beech paid bribes to multiple PDVSA officials, including Gravina. In exchange for the bribes, these officials put Beech’s companies on PDVSA bidding panels. The officials also helped expedite payments on previously awarded contracts. Beech also admitted that he worked with the foreign officials to hide bribes.
To date, eight people have been convicted in connection with the Petróleos de Venezuela SA foreign bribery scheme.
Foreign Bribery and Whistleblower Awards
People with inside information about violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are eligible for whistleblower awards. Both the SEC and U.S. Department of Justice prosecute FCPA violations. Under the SEC’s Whistleblower Program those with “original source” information about the violations can receive up to 30% of whatever the government collects from wrongdoers.
Getting an award often means being the first to file. Delay too long and someone may beat you to an award.
Foreign bribery is a huge problem worldwide. We see these cases in virtually all sectors of the economy and especially in mining, natural resources (oil), manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. Even the banking industry has been dragged into these scandals.
It takes just one person to step forward and blow the whistle. Just one person can make a difference. Your efforts can help honest companies trying to make a living and could mean an award in the millions of dollars. Last year was a record year for FCPA enforcement.
Something else to consider. The SEC has a fantastic track record of protecting the identity and privacy of the whistleblower. If you don’t want your name revealed and don’t want any publicity, the SEC will listen.
Need more information? Please visit our foreign bribery whistleblower page or better yet, contact us directly. Attorney Brian Mahany can be reached at or by phone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries kept strictly confidential. Awards payable to people anywhere in the world.
MahanyLaw – America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices (FCPA) Whistleblower Lawyers
*PDVSA was not charged. It is unclear if any charges will be forthcoming. As of January 1o, 2017, the Justice Department says its investigation is ongoing. The company says it did not solicit the bribes and the any wrongdoing were acts of individual employees. The company says it is also a victim of the scheme.