A Mexican man indicted in September with his wife for alleged bribery and money laundering involving officials at the Mexican state-owned electric utility, Comisión Federal de Electridad (CFE), is still at large, while his wife is being held by American authorities.
Enrique Faustino Aguilar Noriega, 56, of Cuernavaca, Mexico, was charged in a seven-count indictment with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, four substantive FCPA violations, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering.
His wife, Angela Gomez Aguilar, 55, also of Cuernavaca, was arrested in August in Houston. She was moved to the Central District of California, where she’s been in custody. She was charged with conspiracy to launder money and a substantive money laundering count.
A case summary filed by prosecutors with the court in mid-September indicates that Noriega is a fugitive. The DOJ asked the court to issue a warrant for his arrest. With the warrant, prosecutors could seek assistance from Mexican or third-country authorities in apprehending Noriega.
In its September 15, 2010 release announcing the indictments, the DOJ didn’t refer to Noriega’s location.
The U.S. and Mexico have an extradition treaty that covers bribery offenses and money laundering. But the countries aren’t obligated to extradite their citizens and in practice they rarely do so.
If convicted in the United States, Noriega faces a up to five years in prison for the FCPA conspiracy count and each substantive FCPA count. He and his wife could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on the money-laundering conspiracy count and the substantive money laundering count. The government is also seeking criminal forfeiture against both of them.
With his wife in federal custody in California and facing up to 40 years in prison, Noriega is no doubt under extreme pressure to surrender to U.S. authorities. There’s no indication in the court docket available through Pacer that he has hired a lawyer to appear for him in the case or start discussions with prosecutors.
According to the indictment, the couple’s company, Grupo Internacional de Asesores S.A., acted as a sales agent for an Azusa, Calif.-based vendor. From 2002 until 2009, the indictment alleges, Noreiga was paid a 30 percent commission for sales to CFE. All or part of the commission was intended to be used to bribe Mexican officials in exchange for contracts with CFE, the indictment charges, and final prices to CFE were increased by 30 percent to cover the cost of the bribery.
The couple allegedly laundered the money in the Grupo brokerage account. The indictment alleges they bought a yacht for $1.8 million and a Ferrari for $297,500 for a CFE official. They’re also charged with paying more than $170,000 worth of American Express bills and sending about $600,000 to relatives of a CFE official.
Download a copy of the prosecution’s September 14, 2010 case summary in U.S. v. Noriega here.