By C.M. Matthews
A former Haitian government official charged in connection with an alleged bribery scheme pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money in federal court in Miami Wednesday.
Patrick Joseph, a former director at Haiti’s state-owned telecommunications company, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez Wednesday. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Joseph, 49, was charged as the result of a broader investigation of Florida telecoms that allegedly paid bribes to Haitian officials in return for preferred rates and other business advantages, a probe that has netted 12 indictments so far.
Miami-based Cinergy Telecommunications Inc. and company President Vasconez Cruz were charged in a superseding indictment returned in July with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering and conspiracy. According to the Justice Department, Cruz and Cinergy paid $1.4 million in bribes to officials at Haiti’s state-owned telecommunications company.
Two former Haiti Teleco officials who allegedly took bribes, Joseph, and Jean Rene Duperval, 44, were charged with money laundering.
Also indicted were Amadeus Richers, 60, Cinergy’s former director, and Marguerite Grandison, 42, the former president of Telecom Consulting Services Corp., which allegedly conveyed the bribes from Cinergy and its now-defunct sister company, Uniplex Telecommunications Inc., to the Haitian officials.
Duperval and Grandison have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 27 with Cinergy, which has also said it’s innocent. Richers and Cruz haven’t hired lawyers or appeared before the court, according to the docket.
Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez, former executives at Terra Telecommunications Corp. in Florida, were convicted in October of authorizing bribes to Haiti Teleco officials and were sentenced to 15 and seven years in jail, respectively. Duperval and Grandison were charged in that alleged scheme as well.
Three other individuals have also been charged as a result of the investigation.
Joseph previously pleaded not guilty. According to his plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that Joseph’s sentence be reduced in exchange for his cooperation with the government’s investigation. Joseph also agreed to forfeit nearly $1 million he made as a result of the conspiracy. His sentencing is scheduled for April.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment as did a lawyer for Joseph.