Ex-Venezuela National Guard officer charged in bribery, other crimes in Florida

By Chris Benson

March 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that a former Venezuelan military official has pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering, bribing foreign officials and defrauding foreign financial institutions.

A former major in Venezuela's National Guard, Nepmar Jesus Escalona Enriquez, a Venezuelan national who was residing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., admitted to an illegal scheme that involved knowingly submitting fraudulent applications to the National Center for Foreign Commerce -- which administers legal currency exchange in Venezuela -- to deceive three different entities into releasing nearly $1.7 million to him and other conspirators in U.S. dollar exchanges.


Escalona, 47, lied and claimed to the three entities -- Banesco Bank, the Central Bank of Venezuela and Venezuelan customs authorities -- that what he was doing involved financing the importation of food into Venezuela, according to a release by the department.

In at least one instance, Escalona -- who pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy -- did admit to bribing a Venezuelan official in an effort to prevent getting caught. And in another instance, he admitted to taking part in five illegal wire transfers totaling more than $420,000.


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Miami Field Division office had been pursuing the case. Escalona -- who faces 20 years in a U.S. prison if convicted -- is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr on May 23.

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