Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Former PDVSA subsidiary procurement officer pleads guilty to money laundering

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A woman accused of laundering money through the purchase of South Florida real estate reached a plea agreement in Miami federal court.

Lennys Rangel, a former procurement officer at Petrocedeno S.A. – a subsidiary of Petroléos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned and -controlled oil company – pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States on Aug. 21 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Rangel was accused of conspiring to launder millions of dollars in bribe payments through the U.S., court documents said. That included the purchase of a unit at the luxury Brickell Flatiron tower in Miami, according to Rangel’s plea agreement.

“From 2015 to 2017, contractors made millions of dollars in payments for the benefit of the defendant and another senior official connected to the defendant, including from accounts in the name of companies registered under the laws of the State of Florida,” according to a factual proffer, an account of all the facts related to the case, filed in the Southern District of Florida.

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Prosecutors allege Rangel agreed to accept $5 million in bribe payments in exchange for procuring Petrocedeno contracts, according to court documents. She received instructions from senior PDVSA officials and concealed the bribes paid to her by directing that they be deposited to bank accounts held in the names of her friends and relatives, court documents said.

As part of her plea agreement, Rangel agreed to forfeit Unit 2015 at the Brickell Flatiron, 1001 S. Miami Ave. in Miami; net proceeds from the sale of property in Caracas and Lecherias, Venezuela; and $5 million.

Rangel also faces a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20.

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Dozens of people have been charged in connection with an ongoing U.S. investigation into PDVSA, with many of those cases tried in Miami federal court. Eight foreign nationals were charged in 2018 with embezzling $1.2 billion from PDVSA and laundering those funds through Miami real estate, including a condo unit at Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach.

Two of the defendants, a former banker with Switzerland-based Julius Baer and PDVSA’s former executive director of financial planning, later pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.

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