Two Indicted for Participation in Alleged Mexico Utility Bribery Scheme

27 September 2010 Publication

On September 15, 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that two individuals, both of Cuernavaca, Mexico, were indicted in Los Angeles for their alleged roles as intermediaries in a conspiracy to pay and to launder bribes to Mexican government officials at the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), a state-owned utility company and supplier of electricity in Mexico.  According to the seven-count indictment, Enrique Faustino Aguilar Noriega, 56, was charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA, FCPA violations, money-laundering conspiracy and money-laundering.  Angela Maria Gomez Aguilar, 55, was charged with money laundering conspiracy and money-laundering. 

The indictment alleges that Enrique and Angela Aguilar were directors of Grupo Internacional de Asesores S.A. (Grupo), a purported provider of sales representation services for companies doing business with CFE.  According to the indictment, Grupo was engaged by an unidentified California-based manufacturer of emergency restoration systems and other equipment used by electrical utility companies to act as its sales representative in Mexico and to obtain contracts for it from CFE.  Grupo then received a percentage of the revenue the California-based company realized from these contracts.  The indictment alleges that many of the California-based company's clients were foreign, state-owned utilities, including CFE, which was one of the company’s most significant customers.

According to the DOJ press release, from approximately February 2002 until March 2009, Enrique Aguilar and his co-conspirators orchestrated a scheme through which Enrique Aguilar was paid a 30 percent commission on all the goods and services the California-based company sold to CFE, despite the fact that this was a significantly higher commission than previous sales representatives for the company had received.  Enrique Aguilar’s co-conspirators allegedly understood that all or part of the 30 percent commission would be used to pay bribes to Mexican officials in exchange for CFE awarding contracts to the California-based company, and the costs of goods and services sold to CFE were increased by 30 percent to ensure the added commission cost was absorbed by CFE.

As part of this scheme, Enrique Aguilar allegedly caused fraudulent invoices to be submitted from Grupo to the California-based company for 30 percent of the contract price, after which a co-conspirator would wire money into Grupo’s brokerage account to be used to pay bribes.

The press release states that the Aguilars then allegedly laundered the money in the Grupo brokerage account to make concealed payments for the benefit of CFE officials.  In addition, the indictment alleges that the Aguilars purchased a $1.8 million yacht and a $297,500 Ferrari for a CFE official, paid more than $170,000 worth of American Express bills for a CFE official, and sent approximately $600,000 to relatives of a CFE official.

Angela Aguilar was arrested on Aug. 10, 2010, on a criminal complaint when she travelled to Houston from Mexico.  She was ordered detained and removed to the Central District of California, where she remains in custody.  As noted in the DOJ press release, an indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Enrique Aguilar faces a penalties of five years in prison in addition to criminal fines for the FCPA conspiracy count and each of the four substantive FCPA counts, and the conspiracy and substantive money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The government is also seeking criminal forfeiture.