MIAMI – The former finance chief of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., Venezuela's state oil company, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges related to the $1.2 billion money laundering conspiracy.
According to the criminal complaint, Abraham Ortega needed to find a way to legitimize $5 million, so he hired a securities broker who worked out of Miami, federal investigators said.
About two years ago, Ortega told an undercover informant that he was afraid of U.S. authorities' reach. He didn't know U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security agents were listening to the conversation.
Investigators say Ortega, 51, was eager to get his cut out of a scheme to launder about $1.2 billion that U.S. authorities say belonged to PDVSA, the state oil company that is the financial engine of President Nicolas Maduro's administration.
"You know the origin of [the money], and that comes from ... something that is still making noise and it's still making noise and it's still making noise," Ortega said, according to the criminal complaint. "It's going to explode one day."
It did earlier this year. Ortega's relationship with the informant served as a window to the world of white-collar crime in Miami and public corruption in Venezuela.
The case is pending in Miami federal court.