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Former Minister of Bolivia Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme

 The former Minister of the Government of Bolivia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder bribes he received in exchange for corruptly helping a U.S. company win a $5.6 million contract from the Bolivian government.

According to court documents, Arturo Carlos Murillo Prijic, 58, of Bolivia, received at least $532,000 in bribe payments from a Florida-based company in exchange for helping that company secure an approximately $5.6 million contract to provide tear gas and other non-lethal equipment to the Bolivian Ministry of Defense. Murillo and his co-conspirators laundered the proceeds of the bribery scheme through the U.S. financial system, including bank accounts in Miami, Florida, where Murillo received approximately $130,000 in cash bribe payments.

Murillo’s co-conspirators – Sergio Rodrigo Mendez Mendizabal (Mendez), Luis Berkman, Bryan Berkman, and Philip Lichtenfeld – previously pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2021, to their roles in this scheme. Mendez and Luis Berkman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and Bryan Berkman and Lichtenfeld pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). On June 9, 2022, Mendez was sentenced to 42 months in prison, Luis Berkman was sentenced to 38 months, Bryan Berkman was sentenced to 28 months, and Lichtenfeld was sentenced to 26 months.

Murillo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and will be sentenced on a date to be announced. He faces  a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami made the announcement.

HSI’s Fort Lauderdale Field Office is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli S. Rubin for the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorneys Jill Simon and Assistant Chief Gerald M. Moody Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabrielle Charest-Turken is handling asset forfeiture.

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