Former Venezuelan oil exec sentenced in $1B money laundering scheme

Prosecutors said funds were laundered through South Florida real estate

Abraham Edgardo Ortega is one of nine people charged in the laundering scheme. (Getty, Department of Justice)
Abraham Edgardo Ortega is one of nine people charged in the laundering scheme. (Getty, Department of Justice)

A former executive with Venezuela’s state-run oil company was sentenced to two years and four months in prison in connection with an alleged $1.2 billion money laundering scheme linked to South Florida real estate.

Abraham Edgardo Ortega, who was executive director of financial planning at PDVSA, admitted he accepted more than $12 million in bribes for his role, which allowed other Venezuelans who were charged to embezzle from the company, the Miami Herald reported.

Prosecutors allege “kleptocrats” made loans to the oil company that made them wealthy overnight, in part through Venezuela’s unique currency exchange system.

Ortega, who in 2018 pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, was granted a reduced sentence from the five years in prison he faced for his cooperation with prosecutors, the Herald reported.

His attorney, Lilly Ann Sanchez, argued for a reduced sentence, saying he immediately came forward and cooperated.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

In total, nine people were charged in the scheme in 2018, with five of them still at large. Ortega is the second to receive a reduced sentence.

Swiss banker Matthias Krull’s 10-year sentence was reduced to three-and-a-half years in September. Krull, accused of moving $600 million tied to the oil company scheme, also cooperated with prosecutors.

Prosecutors have alleged that part of the siphoned money ended up in local real estate, including a unit at Sunny Isles Beach’s Porsche Design Tower.

Ortega teared up in front of federal Judge Kathleen Williams in Miami on Wednesday, the Herald reported, as he acknowledged that the widespread “corruption” and embezzlement scheme led to the economic crisis in Venezuela.

[Miami Herald] – Lidia Dinkova