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U.S. Attorney Secures Guilty Pleas in Bid-Manipulation Scheme Involving Ex-Im Bank-Financed Airport Construction Project in Trinidad

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 15, 2006

Media Contact Name/Phone: 

Phil Cogan (202) 565-3200

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) provided financing in the form of loan guarantees for the project, although it did not sustain any losses or pay any claims in connection with the scheme. Ex-Im Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. It assists in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets.

This case, and the guilty pleas obtained by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida, illustrates the vigilance of the U.S. Government in detecting and prosecuting perpetrators of such schemes, said Howard Schweitzer, Ex-Im Bank general counsel.

Defendants Raul Gutierrez, Eduardo Hillman-Waller, and Calmaquip Engineering Corporation pled guilty last week before the Honorable U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck for their involvement.

These defendants, along with Rene Diaz de Villegas, Armando Paz, both of South Florida, Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh, both of Trinidad, Richard Lacle, of Aruba, Leonardo Arturo Mora-Rodriguez, of Colombia, Calmaquip Engineering Corporation, a Miami-based corporation, and Northern Construction Limited, a Trinidad and Tobago construction company, were all charged for their participation in this fraudulent scheme.

According to the statements made in open court and filings, the defendants conspired to engage in wire fraud by rigging the bid process to secure construction contracts for the Piarco International Airport. On two different occasions, the defendants arranged for a shadow bidder to submit a fraudulent and overinflated bid for one of the airport's construction projects in order to make their own inflated bid appear reasonable by comparison. On both occasions, the defendants' inflated bids were accepted.

Specifically, defendant Gutierrez pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and transport in foreign commerce money obtained by fraud (Count 1) and one count of bank fraud for his participation in a scheme to borrow money from one bank to pay off a loan from another bank, commonly called loan kiting (Count 13). In addition, defendant Gutierrez agreed to the entry of a money judgment in the amount of $22,556,100, representing the proceeds obtained by the defendant and his co-conspirators from the fraud. To satisfy this money judgment, defendant Gutierrez further agreed to forfeit his interest in real property located in Coral Gables, Florida, in expensive jewelry, artwork, and bank accounts, all derived, directly and indirectly, from the fraud. Lastly, defendant Gutierrez agreed to pay restitution to the following institutions: Colonial Bank: $3,600,000; Wachovia Bank: $3,206,118; Totalbank: $3,974,982; Hemisphere National Bank: $2,000,000; International Bank of Miami: $2,900,000; and Intercredit Bank: $2,875,000; the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago: an amount not to exceed $4,000,000.

Defendant Hillman-Waller pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and transport in foreign commerce money obtained by fraud (Count 1), and consented to the entry of a money judgment in the amount of $2,000,000. To satisfy this money judgment, defendant Hillman-Waller agreed to forfeit property located in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Also pleading was Calmaquip Engineering Corporation, a company with its principal place of business in Virginia Gardens, Florida. Calmaquip pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and transport in foreign commerce money obtained by fraud (Count 1), and bank fraud (Count 13). Calmaquip also agreed to the entry of a money judgment in the amount of $22,556,100.

Previously, on October 24 and October 25, 2006, co-defendants Rene Diaz de Villegas and Armando Paz, respectively, pled guilty for their participation in this scheme. Diaz de Villegas pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and transport in foreign commerce money obtained by fraud (Count 1), and agreed to assist the United States in any future forfeiture proceedings. Defendant Paz pled guilty to bank fraud charges (Count 12). Also on October 24, 2006, defendant Leonardo Mora-Rodriguez pled guilty to conspiracy to transport in foreign commerce money obtained by fraud stolen.

On October 20, 2006, defendant Richard Lacle pled guilty to conspiracy to structure currency transactions to evade reporting requirements. Lacle also agreed to the voluntary forfeiture of property derived from the fraud, including two properties in Pinecrest, Florida.

Defendants Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh are pending extradition from Trinidad. All defendants who have pled are scheduled to be sentenced on January 16, 2007 at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Huck. They face imprisonment up to five years on the various conspiracy counts, and imprisonment up to 30 years on the bank fraud count.

A copy of the press release issued by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida may be found on their website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Ex-Im Bank is in its 72nd year of helping finance the sale of U.S. exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world, by providing loan guarantees, export credit insurance and direct loans. In fiscal year 2005, Ex-Im Bank authorized nearly $14 billion in transactions supporting almost $17.9 billion of U.S. exports. More than $2.6 billion of these authorizations, representing 2,617 transactions, directly supported U.S. small businesses as primary exporters. For more information on Ex-Im Bank, visit www.exim.gov