A US District Judge in Miami has sentenced a man to fifteen years' imprisonment for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act , the longest prison sentence pronounced to date in an FCPA case. If the Court was trying to send a message to the business community, it was surely heard, loud & clear; this is a long sentence in a non-violent, non-drug offence.
Joel Esquenazi was convicted* of:
(1) Conspiracy to violate the FCPA and Wire Fraud.
(2) FCPA violations - seven counts.
(3) Money Laundering Conspiracy.
(4) Money Laundering - 12 counts.
The defendant, and five others also convicted and sentenced to terms as long as seven years, paid more than $890,000 to shell companies, as and for bribes, paid to officials of Haiti's state-owned telecommunications company, Telecommunications D'haiti SAM, more commonly known as Haiti Telco. As the direct result of those bribes, Esquenazi's company, of which he was president, Terra Telecommunications Corp., obtained a number of lucrative business advantages involving contracts with Telco to provide telephone service to Haiti.
Haiti's financial intelligence unit assisted in the investigation. Payments to the officials were accomplished through the use of shell companies that paid consulting services for services never intended to be performed, or actually performed.
Esquenazi also must make $2m in restitution, and had a judgment entered against him for $3m. Whether this sentence is an indicator of the new use of long sentences in FCPA cases, to deter this conduct, or whether it is merely an example of the "take no prisoners" attitude seen lately in these cases, we cannot say; Stay tuned.
*United States vs. Joel Esquenazi et al, Case No.: 1:09-CR-201010-JEM (SD FLA).