Sam Rubenfeld of the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the wife of a current defendant in the Haiti telco case has been indicted.
A second superseding indictment filed in Miami federal court named Cecilia Zurita, a former vice president of Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., as the seventh co-defendant in the case. She allegedly wrote checks for funds later used to bribe officials in Haiti, and covered up the payments with false documentation.
Her lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, above, told the WSJ he was ‘shocked because evidence of criminal conduct is nonexistent. Dismayed because the government tried to blackmail a responsible businessman by trying to indict his wife.’
‘You would think the U.S. government has better things to do than chase after legitimate businesspeople,’ Hirschhorn said.
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This is the fourth time the DOJ has indicted a husband and wife in an FCPA case.
The first spousal co-defendants were Gerald and Patricia Green. They were convicted and jailed for six months. Stuart Carson and Hong “Rose” Carson of Control Components Inc. are facing trial this summer in California. And Enrique Faustino Aguilar Noriega and Angela Gomez Aguilar were charged in the Lindsey prosecution. She pleaded guilty to money laundering but her plea was vacated after the judge dismissed the indictments against her co-defendants. Her husband didn’t appear for trial and was a fugitive in Mexico.
Indicting husbands and wives creates enormous pressure for one of them to cut a plea deal that will make things easier for the other.
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In October, a defendant in the Haiti telco case, Joel Esquenazi, was sentenced to 15 years in prison — the longest FCPA-related prison term in history.
A second defendant, Carlos Rodriguez, received an 84-month sentence.
They were convicted by a jury in Miami of bribing officials at state-owned Telecommunications D’Haiti S.A.M.
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Four other individuals have been convicted and sentenced for their roles in the Haiti telco case.
In 2009, Antonio Perez, a former controller at Terra, and Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. Last year Perez was sentenced to 24 months in prison and Diaz to 57 months. Both are now serving their jail terms.
In February last year, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty in the case to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribes. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Also last year, Robert Antoine, a former director of international affairs for Haiti Telco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted taking more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. He was sentenced to 48 months in prison, which he’s now serving.
Other defendants indicted in the case are Washington Vasconez Cruz, Amadeus Richers, Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Patrick Joseph, Jean Rene Duperval, and Marguerite Grandison. They’re charged in a related scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from 2001 through 2006. Their trial is set to start next month.