Former Venezuelan official pleads guilty in connection with international bribery and money laundering scheme

A dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen and former official at Citgo Petroleum Corporation has pleaded guilty for his role in laundering millions of dollars in bribes and corruptly providing business advantages.

Citgo is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA),.

Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio (De Jongh), 48, was the former procurement officer and manager in Citgo’s Special Projects Group. According to court documents, between approximately 2013 and 2019, he accepted over $7 million in bribe payments in exchange for assisting businessmen and related companies in procuring contracts with Citgo. De Jongh also provided them with other business advantages.

Two included Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino (Gonzalez), a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez (Farias), a Venezuelan national and Houston resident.

De Jongh admitted to directing bribe payments from Gonzalez, Farias and others into bank accounts in the names of shell companies he controlled in Panama and Switzerland. In some instances, he also directed the creation of fake invoices to justify the payments. De Jongh laundered the bribe proceeds through U.S. and international bank accounts and used the funds to purchase real property located in the Houston area. In addition to monetary payments, De Jongh also received bribes in the form of gifts and other things of value from Gonzalez, Farias and others including tickets to a 2014 World Series Game, Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, and a U2 concert.

Gonzalez and Farias also entered guilty pleas in connection with the case.

De Jongh pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller accepted the plea and has set sentencing for Aug. 19. At that time, De Jongh faces up to 20 years in prison.

As part of his plea, De Jongh also agreed to forfeit over $3 million seized from his bank accounts and 15 properties he purchased with his corrupt proceeds.

To date, the Justice Department has announced charges against 28 individuals, 22 of whom have pleaded guilty, as part of a larger, ongoing investigation into bribery at PDVSA.

HSI Houston is conducting the ongoing investigation with assistance from HSI Boston and Miami.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) Robert S. Johnson and John P. Pearson are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Sarah E. Edwards and Assistant Chief Sonali D. Patel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. AUSA Kristine E. Rollinson is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case.

The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General of Panama also provided assistance.

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