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Money laundering plea in PetroEcuador bribery case

A U.S.-based financial advisor pleaded guilty Tuesday for helping launder money used to bribe officials at Ecuador’s state energy company.

Jose Larrea, 40, a U.S. citizen living in Miami, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

Larrea is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the case. 

The others are two former officials of Empresa Pública de Hidrocarburos del Ecuador or PetroEcuador who took bribes, and a contractor who helped pay the bribes. All three pleaded guilty to money laundering.

A fifth defendant was charged earlier this year with FCPA and money-laundering offenses.

Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda (Chatburn), 40, a dual U.S. and Ecuadorian citizen who also lives in Miami, was charged with one count of conspiring to violate the FCPA, one count of violating the FCPA, one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, and two counts of money laundering. 

Chatburn has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to start on October 15.

Larrea admitted in his plea Tuesday that he conspired with Chatburn and others “to conceal the proceeds of an unlawful scheme, namely to pay bribes to PetroEcuador officials,” the DOJ said. 

Larrea said he wired more than $1 million from his personal U.S.-based bank account to several U.S.-based bank accounts. 

“Those wire transfers were made to conceal a bribery scheme involving an oil services contractor who made payments to PetroEcuador officials in an effort to retain existing contracts and win new business with PetroEcuador,” the DOJ said. 

Larrea also created false and back-dated documents on behalf of the oil services contractor. 

Sentencing for Larrea is set for November 14 in federal court in Miami.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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