US Issues First Sentence in FIFA Bribery Case

A Brooklyn federal judge sentenced on Wednesday a former Guatemalan soccer official to eight months in prison for wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy in the first US conviction related to the FIFA corruption scandal.

382px-HéctortrujilloHector Trujillo (Photo: Canal Antigua, CC-BY-SA-4.0)Hector Trujillo, 63, former general secretary of Guatemala’s soccer federation, FENAFUTG, and former judge of the Constitutional Court of Guatemala committed a serious crime using the US banking system to break the law, said US district judge Pamela K. Chen before issuing the sentence.

Besides the prison term, the judge also ordered him and his co-defendants to pay $415,000 in restitution to the Guatemalan soccer federation.

Media World, an American sports marketing company based in Miami, paid in 2010 Trujillo US$ 195,000 in exchange of media and marketing rights to the World Cup qualifier matches leading up to the 2018 World Cup tournament, according to the U.S Department of Justice.

In order to hide the bribe, Media World wired the money to the third person in Panama who then transferred the amount to Trujillo’s bank account in Guatemala, according to the sentencing memorandum.

Once Trujillo got the money, he gave more than half of it to co-defendant Brayan Jimenez, president of FENAFUTG, and and additional $20,000 to Rafael Salguero, a Guatemalan member of the FIFA executive committee and former FENAFUTG president who facilitated the deal.

Three years latter, Media World renewed the deal, this time for matches leading up to the 2022 World Cup. The company wired $200,000 to the account of a US construction company owned by an acquaintance of Trujillo, who kept about $ 10,000 to cover taxes and then transferred the rest to Guatemala for Trujillo and Jimenez to split it. 

Trujillo is among more than 40 people and entities charged in an investigation into corruption in international soccer in the US.

Jimenez sentencing was adjourned to March 5, 2018.

Judge Chen emphasized that Trujillo’s sentence must send a message that laws cannot be violated with impunity and without consequences.

“This is about punishment and deterrence,” Judge Chen said.

What makes it worse, the judge noted, is that Trujillo is a lawyer and a former judge in the highest court in Guatemala so that he knew that what he was doing was wrong.

“He knew better and should have done better,” said Judge Chen.

As mitigating factors, she said to have considered his age, health condition, his separation from family and his work as a public servant.

Trujillo cried when he told the court he was sorry. He had already paid what he had to pay: physical isolation, economic loss, loss of professional prestige and public shaming, he said and asked to be sent back to Guatemala and suffer the consequences of his actions there.

“I don’t know which challenges I will have to face but I am ready to take responsibility for my actions,” said Trujillo. “I’m asking for your mercy,” he added, addressing the judge.

Judge Chen had originally considered issuing a harsher sentence - from 33 to 41 months in prison - but her final decision dropped the number to eight months. She briefed Trujillo on his right to appeal.

On June 2, 2017, Trujillo pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in June and agreed to forfeit $175,000, according to a U.S Department of Justice press release.

The former judge will have to surrender on November 20 at the facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons.

Trujillo was secretary of the FENAFUTG executive committee from late 2009 until his arrest in December 2015 on a Disney cruise ship docked in Port Canaveral, Florida, reported Reuters. He spent a more than a month in jail before he was released on a $ 4 million bail.