Ex-Broker-Dealer Executive Pleads Guilty in Bribe Scheme

Two former executives of Direct Access Partners LLC, a New York-based broker-dealer, pleaded guilty to charges they participated in a scheme to bribe Venezuelan bank officials in exchange for business.

Ernesto Lujan, a former DAP managing partner, and Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt, a former senior vice president, pleaded guilty to six criminal counts, including conspiracy, money laundering and violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, in separate hearings in Manhattan federal court today.

Lujan and Clarke, who worked in DAP’s Miami office, admitted paying bribes to Maria Gonzalez, vice president of finance at Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, or BANDES, the nation’s state-owned economic development bank, to secure its bond-trading business.

“We made the payments to Ms. Gonzalez so she would agree to direct business to DAP,” Lujan told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis today.

Lujan and Clarke each face as many as 20 years in prison on the most serious count, money laundering, when they’re sentenced. They’ve signed cooperation agreements with the government in hopes of leniency, Francis said.

Also charged in the case are Gonzalez and Jose Alejandro Hurtado, another former DAP employee.

Offshore Companies

DAP used offshore companies and a Swiss bank account to disguise the source of the funds, Lujan and Clarke said. The two men also admitted destroying e-mails and misleading the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which was investigating DAP.

Lujan, who was being held without bail, was ordered released today on $1.5 million bond to be secured by two Florida properties. Clarke was allowed to remain free pending sentencing.

Direct Access ceased operations in May after the criminal charges and a related Securities and Exchange Commission suit were filed. The firm was forced into bankruptcy by a creditor May 30.

The cases are U.S. v. Bethancourt, 13-mj-00683 and U.S. v. Lujan, 13-mj-01501, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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