A Merrick Manor condo in Coral Gables is among the properties linked to an alleged bribery scheme involving an embattled former government official in Ecuador.
Carlos Ramon Polit Faggioni, an ex-comptroller general of Ecuador, allegedly took $8 million in bribes from Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht from 2010 to 2014 in exchange for using his high-ranking post to benefit the company, according to a federal indictment filed in Miami. Polit was arrested on March 28, several days after the indictment was filed.
Odebrecht itself is infamous for being implicated years ago in massive bribery schemes far-reaching throughout Latin America. The company, which agreed to pay multiple fines worth millions of dollars, has since rebranded as Novonor.
According to the indictment, Polit worked with an unnamed relative to funnel Odebrecht bribe money through 14 Florida shell companies that then laundered the funds by buying or renovating Miami-Dade County properties. To distance the money from Polit, his relative allegedly registered the Florida companies in the names of associates, often without their knowledge.
Polit had told the Odebrecht official that his relative will “make the cash ‘disappear,’” according to the indictment.
Ecuador created the comptroller general’s office to prevent and investigate fraud and corruption tied to public funds. Polit, who held the post from 2007 to 2017, used his influence to prevent the imposition of fines on Odebrecht’s construction projects in Ecuador in exchange for the bribes, the indictment alleges.
Authorities are seeking the forfeiture of three properties allegedly tied to the bribe money. They are: Unit 702 at Merrick Manor at 301 Altara Avenue, a Miami office building at 1902 Southwest 22nd Street, and a vacant site at 1010-1030 Northwest Ninth Court, north of the Miami River.
The 1,107-square-foot Merrick Manor condo has three bedrooms and two baths, property records show. JC Funds LLC paid $482,900 for the unit in 2019, the year Merrick Manor was completed.
The 12,961-square-foot, four-story office building was built in 1972 on 0.3 acres, according to records. The entity 1900 Office Building LLC bought the property in 2016 for $2.7 million. The indictment says that $1.4 million was transferred from one of the Florida shell companies to an escrow account for the purchase in May 2016.
It’s unclear if JC Funds and 1900 Office Building were one of the Florida shell companies allegedly used in the scheme because the indictment does not name the entities.
Two other properties were allegedly tied to the scheme but are not under forfeiture proceedings. Polit and his relative, through the shell companies, paid $2.6 million for an unidentified Coral Gables office building in 2016, the indictment says.
And they allegedly bought a two-story, five-bedroom house on a 0.4-acre lot with a pool at 7233 Los Pinos Boulevard in the Gables’ high-end Cocoplum neighborhood. More than $3.6 million was transferred from an escrow account into one of the shell companies for the transfer of the house in 2017, according to the indictment.
The allegedly ill-gotten money also was used to buy restaurants, a dry cleaner and other businesses. When Odebrecht asked to pay Polit by wired payments instead of cash, the money went through three Panamanian companies, prosecutors say.
Aside from Odebrecht, Polit also allegedly accepted $500,000 from an unidentified Ecuadorian businessperson in exchange for helping him obtain contracts from Ecuador’s state-owned insurance company Seguros Sucre, prosecutors say.
This is not Polit’s first charge in connection to alleged Odebrecht bribes. The 72-year-old was tried and convicted in absentia in his native Ecuador. He escaped sentencing because he fled to Miami before his 2018 trial.