A Florida asphalt seller’s way of paving the road to business in South America will cost it a $16.6 million fine, and will cost a former company president some freedom after guilty pleas in federal court.
In getting the rights to sell asphalt to companies owned or controlled by the governments of Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador, Sargeant Marine slipped millions to government officials in those countries from 2010-2018, the company admitted in court documents. That runs afoul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States.
Deerfield Beach-based Sargeant Marine was based in Boca Raton during its bribery era. State records say Daniel Sargeant wasn’t even a company officer before being installed as Sargeant Marine’s president in 2010, replacing company founder Harry Sargeant Sr.
Now, Daniel Sargeant will be a felon after pleading guilty in Brooklyn federal court to conspiracy to violate FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Also pleading guilty to criminal charges are Jose Meneses, a trader with Sargeant Marine; Luiz Eduardo Andrade, who acted as middleman for the Brazilian bribes, and David Diaz, who did the same for the Venezuelan bribes; former Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. official Hector Nuñez Troyano; and Sargeant trader Roberto Finocchi, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to conspiracy to defraud the United States.
All are awaiting sentencing.
How the money moved
Justice says Sargeant Marine admitted using a two-step money movement method for routing money to individuals in power, be they political figures or officers at the corporations, such as Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.-Petrobras or EP Petroecuador.
Sargeant Marine went into “consulting” agreements with the middlemen. After a “consultant” such as Andrade or Diaz sent an invoice for his work, Sargeant would wire money to the consultant’s shell company’s offshore account. Then, the “consultant” would do the work for which he was being paid — moving the money to the officials being bribed.
In Venezuela, Sargeant paid for inside information from PDVSA officials and help in steering contracts to a Sargeant-preferred business. The information was called “Chocolates.”
State records say Harry Sargeant and Janet Sargeant first registered Sargeant Marine as a corporation doing business in Florida in February 1995.