Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio pleaded guilty to corruption, bribery and money laundering charges in a U.S. court.
By Maibort Petit U.S.-Venezuelan citizen and former CITGO Petroleum Corporation official Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio pleaded guilty to participating in an international scheme to launder millions of dollars in bribes and corruptly provide business advantages. CITGO is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-controlled state-owned energy company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the Justice Department statement said. Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio, 48, was the former procurement officer and manager of CITGO's Special Projects Group. According to court documents, between approximately 2013 and 2019, he accepted more than $7 million in bribe payments in exchange for helping entrepreneurs and related businesses obtain contracts with CITGO. De Jongh also provided them with other business advantages. Two included José Manuel González Testino, a U.S. and Venezuelan citizen, and Tulio Ánibal Farías Pérez, a Venezuelan citizen and Houston resident. De Jongh admitted to directing the bribe payments of Gonzalez, Farias and others to bank accounts in the name of shell companies he controlled in Panama and Switzerland. In some cases, he also directed the creation of false invoices to justify payments. De Jongh laundered the proceeds of the bribe through U.S. and international bank accounts and used the funds to buy real estate located in the Houston area, the statement said. 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 pleaded guilty in connection with the case. De Jongh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller accepted the plea and set the sentence for Aug. 19. At the time, De Jongh faces up to 20 years in prison. As part of his guilty plea, De Jongh also agreed to lose more than $3 million seized from his bank accounts and 15 properties he bought with his corrupt profits. To date, the Justice Department has announced charges against 28 people, 22 of whom have pleaded guilty, as part of a broader and ongoing investigation into bribery at PDVSA. Assistant Federal Prosecutors (AUSA) Robert S. Johnson and John P. Pearson are prosecuting the case along with trial attorney Sarah E. Edwards and Deputy Chief Sonali D. Patel of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section. AUSA Kristine E. Rollinson is handling the forfeiture aspects of the case. Assistance was also provided by the Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice, the Federal Office of Justice of Switzerland and the Attorney General's Office of Panama.