November 26, 2019

Investment advisor pleads guilty to laundering bribes for Venezuelan official

On November 26, 2019, Gustavo Hernandez Frieri, a naturalized US citizen formerly working as an investment advisor in Miami, pleaded guilty in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to launder money in violation of 18 USC § 1956(h).  As proffered by Hernandez, from 2016 to 2017, Hernandez laundered millions of dollars in bribe payments made to Abraham Edgardo Ortega, an official in the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).  The individuals or entities making the payments were not identified in the proffer.  According to the proffer, Hernandez conspired with Ortega to launder approximately $12 million of these bribe payments through fictitious contracts with shell companies.  Hernandez admitted he was aware that there was a high probability that the financial transactions he was conducting for Ortega involved the proceeds of unlawful activity, and were intended to conceal the source and ownership of the funds.

As part of the plea agreement, Hernandez agreed to forfeit over $12 million in cash, and several million dollars of assets held in other forms, in addition to any fines or restitution ultimately required of him.  He is awaiting sentencing and faces a maximum term of imprisonment of up to 20 years.

Factual Proffer