More than a dozen South Florida properties are tied to defendants in a $1.2 billion Venezuelan money laundering case, according to a recently filed criminal indictment.
The government lists the South Florida properties in the indictment as “substitute properties” that it can seize if necessary but does not allege the properties are connected to any criminal activity.
The properties include a condo at Icon Brickell, six units in a small Miami Beach apartment complex, four Coral Gables homes, a house in Miami’s Bay View neighborhood, and a Wellington equestrian estate with adjacent vacant land, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida on Aug. 16. The Related Group, the developer of Icon Brickell, declined to comment through a spokesperson.
The defendants in the case allegedly engaged in a scheme to siphon more than $1 billion out of Venezuela’s state oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. Some of the embezzled money was then laundered into South Florida real estate, prosecutors allege.
In the initial complaint filed in July, federal officials alleged a $5.3 million Porsche Design Tower condo unit was tied to the scheme, which they are now seeking to seize.
Shortly after the initial criminal complaint was filed, the Miami Herald reported that Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro is being investigated by the U.S. government for his role in the alleged scheme.
Some of the properties listed in the most recent criminal indictment were bought through companies tied to the former general counsel of Venezuela’s oil ministry, Carmelo Antonio Urdaneta Aqui, including the Miami Beach apartments and a Coral Gables condo, records show. Property records also show that a house at 597 Hibiscus Lane in Miami is tied to Gustavo Hernandez Frieri, who prosecutors allege was a professional money launderer based in Miami.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has already filed a notice of lis pendens against the two Wellington properties, which makes it difficult to buy or sell the real estate. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.
Federal officials can seize the other 14 substitute properties if other assets it is trying obtain — including properties in Panama and funds in offshore bank accounts — have been transferred or sold, diminished in value or placed beyond jurisdiction of the court, according to the indictment.
Andrew Ittleman, a partner at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph, who focuses on white collar defense and money laundering, said the primary motivation for the government will be to go after the main assets.
The government has already seized $45.6 million in cash, according to the indictment. The other main assets include funds in bank accounts at City National Bank in New Jersey; Deltec Bank & Trust Ltd in Nassau, Bahamas; Zarattini & Co. Bank in Lugano, Switzerland; and 11 units in Panama City, Panama, including fixtures and furnishings.
The South Florida substitute properties include:
- A three-bedroom, three-bathroom house at 597 Hibiscus Lane, Miami
- Units A through F at 225 27th Street in Miami Beach
- 2030 Douglas Road (The Minorca Condo) Unit 704, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in Coral Gables
- 194 Isla Dorada Boulevard in Coral Gables, a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house in Coral Gables
- 6995 Prado Boulevard, a five-bedroom, six-bathroom house in Coral Gables
- 6905 Prado Boulevard, a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home in Coral Gables
- 465 Brickell Avenue (Icon Brickell) unit 619, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo
- 655 Casuarina Concourse, a six-bedroom, five-bathroom house in Coral Gables
- 14432 Rolling Rock Place in Wellington Florida, vacant land
- 14464 Rolling Rock Place in Wellington, a four-bedroom, six-and-a-half bathroom house
- 3530 Mystic Pointe Drive unit 1206 in Aventura, Florida, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo