Florida businessman admits to bribery scheme at Venezuela's PDVSA

(Reuters) - The part owner of several Florida-based energy companies on Wednesday became the latest person to plead guilty as part of an ongoing U.S. investigation into bribery at Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

Fernando Ardila Rueda, 49, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to two counts, including that he violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with a scheme to pay bribes to PDVSA employees, the U.S. Justice Department said.

He became the 10th person to plead guilty as part of a larger investigation by the Justice Department into bribery at Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) that became public with the arrest of two Venezuelan businessmen in December 2015.

The two men were Roberto Rincon, who was president of Tradequip Services & Marine, and Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, the manager of Vertix Instrumentos. Both pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to pay bribes to secure energy contracts.

Prosecutors said that Ardila, who from 2008 to 2014 was a sales director, manager and partial owner of several of Shiera’s companies, conspired with Shiera and Rincon to pay bribes to PDVSA purchasing analysts.

The Justice Department said Ardila provided PDVSA officials with entertainment and offered them bribes based on a percentage of the value of contracts they helped Shiera’s companies obtain.

Two other former employees of Shiera’s companies have also pleaded guilty in connection with the case, as have several former PDVSA officials.

PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis