Ex-Citgo official from Venezuela charged with money laundering and bribery in Houston

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Thursday, August 6, 2020
Houstonians remain detained in Venezuela
WATCH: In November 2017, six Citgo executives were called to a last-minute meeting in Venezuela. Most of them lived in the Houston area, but a couple are based in Louisiana.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former Venezuelan official at Citgo has been charged in connection with money laundering and international bribery in Houston.

According to a news release issued by the Department of Justice on Thursday, 48-year-old Jose Luis De Jongh Atencio is charged for his alleged role in laundering money of a scheme involving bribes made to corruptly secure business advantages from Citgo and Venezuela's state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).

Atencio, a former procurement officer and manager in Citgo's special projects group, is charged with one count of conspiracy to launder money and five counts of money laundering.

A federal grand jury returned the six-count indictment in July. It was unsealed on Thursday after Atencio's first court appearance.

According to the DOJ, Atencio accepted more than $2.5 million in bribe payments from businessmen and others, including Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino, a dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, and Tulio Anibal Farias Perez, a Venezuelan national and Houston resident.

This all took place within a span of about six years, investigators said.

Atencio is also accused of creating fake invoices to justify payments. He would launder the money through U.S. bank accounts and used most of it to buy property located in the Southern District of Texas (SDTX), according to the charges.

In addition, Atencio allegedly received several high-end gifts from Gonzalez and Farias, including tickets to a 2014 World Series Game, Super Bowl XLIX and a U2 concert.

Gonzalez and Farias have already pleaded guilty in connection with the case.

With the unsealing of the indictment, the DOJ has now charged 27 people, 20 of whom have already pleaded guilty, as part of the ongoing investigation into bribery at PDVSA.