January 5, 2023

Former Bolivian official sentenced to 70 months’ imprisonment for role in bribery and money laundering scheme

On January 4, 2023, Arturo Carlos Murillo Prijic, who served as Bolivia’s Minister of Government from 2019 to 2020, was sentenced to 70 months in prison after pleading guilty on October 20, 2022 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  As part of his guilty plea, Murillo Prijic admitted that he had participated in an illegal bribery scheme in which he received at least $532,000 in bribe payments in exchange for helping a Florida-based company obtain a $5.6 million contract to supply tear gas and other non-lethal equipment to the Bolivian Ministry of Defense.  Murillo Prijic also admitted that he and his co-conspirators laundered funds derived from the scheme through bank accounts in the US, Bolivia, and Singapore, including approximately $130,000 in cash that was ultimately delivered to the Florida home of one of Murillo Prijic’s relatives.  

Murillo Prijic and his co-conspirators—Sergio Rodrigo Mendez Mendizabal (the former Chief of Staff of Bolivia’s Ministry of Government), Bryan Berkman (owner of the Florida-based company), Luis Berkman (an individual who “worked closely with” the Florida-based company), and Philip Lichtenfeld (an “associate” of Mendez and Murillo Prijic)—were each arrested and charged by US authorities in May of 2021 with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  

In September 2021, 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.   They were all sentenced to prison in June 2022, with terms ranging from 26 to 42 months.

DOJ Press Release – January 2023 | Judgment | DOJ Press Release – October 2022 | Factual Proffer