Federal prosecutors charged eight people on Wednesday in an alleged scheme to launder more than $1 billion embezzled from the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA, using Miami real estate and fake investments.
The criminal complaint further alleges that the former legal counsel to the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining used a condo at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach as payment for one of the defendant’s laundering services. Dezer Development, led by Gil Dezer, built the 132-unit, 60-story tower at 18555 Collins Avenue in 2016.
According to the complaint, the conspiracy began in December 2014 and was designed to embezzle about $600 million from PDVSA, previously known as Petroleos de Venezuela SA, through a currency exchange scheme. By May 2015, the conspiracy had doubled to $1.2 billion embezzled from PDVSA, federal officials said in a release.
As part of the scheme, the complaint alleges that Carmelo Urdaneta Aqui, the former legal counsel to the Venezuelan Ministry of Oil and Mining, discussed transferring a unit at Porsche Design Tower to Jose Vincente Amparan Croquer, an alleged Venezuelan money launderer, using the equity in his down payment as an alleged fee for his laundering services.
Property records show that Dezer Development’s 18555 Developers LLC sold Porsche Design Tower unit 2205 to Paladium Real Estate Group in January 2017 for $5.3 million. Records also show that Paladium was formed on May 2016 with Urdaneta’s wife as an owner.
According to the complaint, on Sept. 23, 2016, Amparan’s wife was added as a manager of Paladium, and on Sept. 15, 2017, after the closing, Urdaneta’s wife was removed, “leaving Amparan in control of Paladium and the condominium. “
The eight were each charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Two of the defendants were arrested and six other defendants remain at large, according to the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The alleged conspirators include former PDVSA officials, professional third-party money launderers, and members of the Venezuelan elite, also known as “boliburgués.”
Dezer Development said it just learned of the series of events. “We have not been contacted by the authorities, but will certainly cooperate to the extent they request,” the firm said in a statement. No attorneys were named for the defendants.
Dezer Development completed Porsche Design Tower in November 2016. The building is known for its “Dezervator,” a patented car elevator that takes residents up to their units in their cars. A number of owners have tried to flip their units since closing on them less than two years ago.