Venezuelan businessman charged in bribery and money laundering scheme


Date: August 24, 2022


A federal grand jury in Miami returned an indictment today charging a Venezuelan national for laundering the proceeds of substantially inflated procurement contracts obtained by making bribe payments to senior officials at Petropiar, a joint venture between Venezuela's state-owned and state-controlled energy company and an American oil company.

According to the indictment, from at least 2015 through at least May 2019, Rafael Rixon Rafael Moreno Oropeza allegedly engaged in a scheme to obtain multimillion-dollar contracts from Petropiar by paying bribes to senior officials at Petropiar. Moreno allegedly agreed to pay a $1 million bribe to a senior official in the Venezuelan government to install another person as a high-ranking official in the procurement division of Petropiar. In addition, Moreno allegedly sent millions of dollars in bribe payments to senior Petropiar officials from accounts he controlled in South Florida. In exchange for these bribe payments, Moreno allegedly received benefits including over $30 million in payments on contracts from Petropiar to accounts Moreno controlled in South Florida. Illustrative of this, Moreno received approximately $2.7 million from a Petropiar contract to supply breathing devices, a contract whose price had been allegedly inflated to 100 times the actual cost. Moreno allegedly used the proceeds obtained from the Petropiar contracts for his own personal benefit, including to purchase real estate, a private jet, and luxury vehicles in South Florida.

Moreno is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering; concealment money laundering; international promotional money laundering; and engaging in transactions involving criminally derived property. If convicted, Moreno faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering and up to 10 years in prison for each count of engaging in transactions in criminally derived property. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of the IRS Criminal Investigation's (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami Field Office made the announcement.

IRS-CI Miami Field Office and HSI's Miami Field Office investigated this case.

Trial Attorney Alexander Kramer of the Justice Department's Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Berger of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Klco of the Southern District of Florida is handling asset forfeiture.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.