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Katy man pleads guilty in federal bribery case

December 15, 2018 GMT

A Katy man is scheduled for sentencing in February after recently pleading guilty in federal court for his central role in a wide-ranging bribery scheme linked to Venezuela’s state-own energy company.

Alfonso Eliezer Gravina, 56, was indicted in May 2017 after federal investigators accused him of using his position at Petroleos de Venezuela, SA., identified in court documents as PDVSA, to receive illegal payments from those hoping to do business with the company. Gravina also failed to report the bribes totaling more than $500,000 as additional income, federal prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of making false statements on his federal income tax return. He was the latest person to take a plea deal as part of an ongoing investigation that has resulted in 15 people admitting their guilt, officials said.

From 1998 to around March 2014, Gravina held a number of positions within PDVSA related to the purchase of energy services equipment and services, including purchasing manager at one point. According to court documents, his job responsibilities included selecting companies for bidding panels, which allowed the firms to submit bids on individual projects.

Federal prosecutors said Gravina and two unidentified businessmen concealed the nature of the bribes by referring to them as “commissions.” The bribe money came from bank accounts controlled by the two businessmen but not connected to any company that was part of the original deal. Gravina and the two businessmen also attempted to conceal the source of the bribes by having it routed to an account held in the name of a close personal associate of the defendant, officials said.

In one case, $15,000 was transferred from a bank in Panama to a bank account in the Houston area held jointly by Gravina and a family member. The money was sent in exchange for him helping the company be in line for future business, officials said.

Gravina was offered a plea deal by the federal government in exchange for him being cooperative with investigators. It could result in his jail time being reduced. Under the terms of the agreement, he said he would participate in interviews and provide “truthful, complete and accurate information” to federal agents and prosecutors.

Court documents said he will forfeit to the federal government any property received as a result of the bribes.