June 19, 2018 / 10:45 PM / 4 months ago

Florida men sentenced to prison for laundering funds from Venezuela

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The owners of a Florida construction equipment exporter were sentenced to prison on Tuesday after they were found guilty of money laundering and illegally transferring more than $100 million from businesses largely in Venezuela to U.S. and foreign bank accounts.

Luis Diaz Jr., 76, was sentenced to eight months in prison U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan, while his son, Luis Javier Diaz, 51, was sentenced to four months.

Prosecutors had said that federal guidelines called for a sentence of more than 12 years, and had argued that the two deserved a sentence below that, but still “substantial.”

“Today’s sentence is a sign of the seriousness of these crimes and our Office’s commitment to prosecute them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

Christine Chung, a lawyer for Luis Diaz Jr., and Scott Srebnick, a lawyer for Luis Javier Diaz, both declined to comment.

The defendants had been convicted in November of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and of international money laundering by a jury in Manhattan federal court. Some of the money was transferred into accounts belonging to Venezuelan government officials, according to prosecutors.

They were arrested in Miami in December 2016 and charged with using their Doral, Florida-based company, Miami Equipment & Export Co, to transfer funds for a fee. Prosecutors said the company was not registered with the state of Florida or with the U.S. Treasury Department, as required by Florida and U.S. law.

The company transferred money into and through the U.S. financial system without going through licensed financial institutions, which would report any suspicious activity to authorities, prosecutors said.

Diaz Jr. and Diaz transferred more than $100 million on behalf of KCT, a large Venezuelan consortium of construction companies, according to prosecutors. They transferred the money using fake invoices to make it appear the transfers had legitimate business reasons, prosecutors said.

Miami Equipment received about $1 million in fees for carrying out the transfers, prosecutors said.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

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