February 4, 2015 / 12:31 AM / 5 years ago

Mexican contractor tied to Pemex bribe attempt: U.S. prosecutors

(Reuters) - A jailed Mexican businessman serving time for laundering money and his son discussed bribing an official at Mexico’s national oil company, Pemex, to win contracts, according to court documents.

    In 2013, Francisco “Pancho” Colorado, the owner of Veracruz-based oil services company ADT Petroservicios, was convicted in a U.S. federal court of laundering drug money for the Zetas drug cartel by purchasing racehorses and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    On Monday, the U.S. Western District Court of Texas added five years to his sentence on an additional charge: conspiring in 2013 with his son and a business associate while he was in prison awaiting trial, to bribe a U.S. federal judge assigned to his case.

    On Saturday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Gardner filed transcripts of telephone calls Colorado made last month from Bastrop County Jail in Texas to his son, who is living in Mexico after serving a year sentence on the bribery charge.

    According to prosecutors, Colorado admonished his son for failing to follow his instructions to give money to two senators from Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, Hector Yunes and Jose Yunes, as well as a Pemex official named Placido Reyes. Colorado said his company lost a contract because “my contacts were not tended to.”

    “Your job is more to focus on the contacts than on the ... operations, OK? Do you get it?” Colorado said, according to a translated transcript of the Spanish phone conversation on Jan. 19.

   The two senators and the Pemex official were not charged with any wrongdoing. Jose Yunes and Pemex did not respond to requests for comment.

Hector Yunes said he knew Francisco Colorado as an important businessman from Veracruz and they were familiar with each other from public events, but they never had direct dealings and Colorado’s son had never approached him.

“This (transcript) doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t discredit me. It doesn’t involve me in anything irregular,” he added.

    Colorado’s attorney, Chris Flood, said the transcripts were irrelevant to the charge Colorado attempted to bribe the judge. He also said they were unsubstantiated, because Gardner did not submit recordings of the calls.

Colorado is appealing the five year sentence for the bribe attempt as well as the original money laundering charges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. He says he was threatened and coerced into buying horses for members of the Zetas cartel, and the purchases were made with legitimate profits from his business with Pemex, not drug proceeds.

    Last month, Reuters reported that, in 2009, Mexico’s Public Administration Ministry had banned Colorado’s company, ADT Petroservicios, from receiving government contracts on unrelated charges of committing fraud in an oil spill clean-up project. ADT appealed and went on to win $35 million in additional contracts from Pemex before the ban was implemented in 2011. [ID:nL1N0V11SA]

    At the money laundering trial in Texas, a witness testified to being present at a 2012 meeting in Mexico when Colorado discussed how to pay $5 million to a high-level Pemex official.

    Colorado, his son and the company accountant were caught on recordings plotting with an undercover U.S. federal agent to put a million dollars in the golf bag of the judge handling the money laundering case. The judge had no knowledge of the scheme, prosecutors said.

Additional reporting by Elinor Comlay and M.B. Pell; Editing by Michael Williams and Andre Grenon

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