Venezuelan Accountant Gets 14 Months in Connecticut Hedge-Fund Case

A Venezuelan accountant was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his role in trying to hinder a probe into a Connecticut hedge fund manager accused of conducting a Ponzi scheme.

Juan Carlos Guillen Zerpa, 44, was sentenced today in federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for lying to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Tom Carson, spokesman for U.S. Attorney David Fein in New Haven.

Guillen admitted to aiding Francisco Illarramendi, majority owner of Michael Kenwood Group LLC, a holding company for an investment adviser through which Illarramendi managed several hedge funds. Illarramendi pleaded guilty to fraud and obstruction on March 7. Guillen was managing partner of BDO Guillen Martinez & Asociados, the Venezuelan affiliate of BDO International Ltd., according to the Latin American Herald Tribune. BDO is the world’s fifth-largest accounting network, according to its website.

Guillen, who was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill, was an accounting professional who sold “his title for an expected payday of $1 million in exchange for his obstruction of justice and false statements to a federal agency about the existence of hundreds of millions of dollars of fraudulent assets,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.

Promised Returns

Illarramendi, 42, of New Canaan, Connecticut, used money from new investors to pay returns he promised to earlier ones using fraudulent documents that purported to show his hedge funds had hundreds of millions of dollars in credits, according to prosecutors.

The SEC sued Illarramendi in January, alleging he diverted at least $53 million from clients for himself and other businesses he controlled.

“We’re not happy with the result but at the same time I understand it was a fair sentence,” Michael Diaz Jr., a lawyer for Guillen, said in a phone interview. Diaz, of Diaz, Reus & Targ LLP in Miami, had asked that his client be sentenced to the 63 days he spent in jail.

Guillen signed an asset-verification letter falsely stating that one of Illarramendi’s funds had $275 million in loans to Venezuelan companies.

Fake Loans

The fake loans were created by Illarramendi and Juan Carlos Horna Napolitano, another defendant in the case. Guillen, who expected to be paid as much as $1 million for his efforts, lied to the SEC in January about the letter, according to prosecutors.

He was arrested in March along with Horna. Illarramendi and Horna, 41, who also pleaded guilty, haven’t been sentenced yet.

Carson, the prosecutor’s spokesman, said the investigation into the case is continuing.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Guillen, 11-cr-76, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (Bridgeport), and the SEC case is SEC v. Illarramendi, 11-cv-78, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut (New Haven).

To contact the reporter on this story: Thom Weidlich in Brooklyn, New York, federal court at tweidlich@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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