Venezuelan Minister and Former Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah charged with violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act
NEW YORK — Following an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York’s El Dorado Task Force, the former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah (“El Aissami”) and Venezuelan businessman Samark Jose Lopez Bello were charged Thursday with criminal violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”) and sanctions imposed in February 2017 by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) pursuant to the Kingpin Act. HSI worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for prosecution of this case.
El Aissami and Lopez Bello Violated U.S. Sanctions in connection with their use of private jets, including Feb. 23, 2019 return flight by El Aissami from Russia to Venezuela. Related charges under the Kingpin Act were also filed against Victor Mones Coro, Alejandro Miguel Leon Maal, Michols Orsini Quintero, and Alejandro Antonio Quintavalle Yrady. Mones Coro, Leon Maal, And Orsini Quintero were arrested in Florida.
“International sanctions restrain the activities of individuals and countries deemed to have policies and practices incompatible with the U.S. from receiving the full benefit of economic, political, humanitarian, and other support the U.S. provides globally. Former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah allegedly evaded the sanctions imposed by OFAC by employing U.S. companies to provide international transport via private jet. The enforcement of these sanctions is critical to the national security interests of the U.S., and I commend our law enforcement partners for their vigilance and assistance in bringing today’s charges,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. Attorney for SDNY.
As alleged in the indictment and superseding indictments unsealed in federal court, El Aissami became the Vice President of Venezuela in approximately January 2017. In February 2017, OFAC designated El Aissami and Lopez Bello as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations. As a result of OFAC’s designations, U.S. persons were prohibited from, among other things, engaging in transactions or providing services to El Aissami and Lopez Bello absent a specific authorization or license from OFAC. El Aissami and Lopez Bello nevertheless worked with, among others, U.S. citizens Mones Coro and Leon Maal, as well as Orsini Quintero and Quintavalle Yrady, who held U.S. visas at the time of the crimes, in an effort to violate and evade OFAC’s sanctions by obtaining travel services, including private jet charters for El Aissami, Lopez Bello, and their relatives and associates. El Aissami and Bello paid for these services at times through intermediaries who delivered bulk cash in Venezuela.
El Aissami, Lopez Bello, Mones Coro and Leon Maal used American Charter Services LLC and its affiliates, all U.S. companies, while providing services to El Aissami and Lopez Bello in violation of the Kingpin Act and the OFAC sanctions. For example, in September 2018, Mones Coro used an American Charter Services account in the United States to pay expenses for an upcoming private flight by Lopez Bello. El Aissami, Lopez Bello, Mones Coro and Leon Maal also used SVMI Solution, LLC, another U.S. company, to receive payments for transportation services provided to El Aissami and Lopez Bello in violation of the Kingpin Act and the OFAC sanctions, such as a July 2018 funds transfer sent from Manhattan, New York to an SVMI Solution account in Florida. Earlier this year, Leon Maal helped El Aissami charter a private flight from Vnukovo International Airport in Russia to Simón Bolívar International Airport in Venezuela on February 23, 2019.
El Aissami, 44, of Venezuela, Lopez Bello, 44, of Venezuela, Mones Coro, 51, of Florida, and Leon Maal, 41, of Florida, are each charged in five counts: (1) conspiring to use American Charter Services LLC and SVMI Solution, LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, and to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations, (2) using American Charter Services LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, (3) using American Charter Services LLC to evade and attempt to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations, (4) using SVMI Solution, LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, and (5) using SVMI Solution, LLC to evade and attempt to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations. If convicted, each of the five counts carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, for a total maximum of 150 years in prison on all accounts faced by El Aissami, Lopez Bello, Mones Coro, and Leon Maal.
Orsini Quintero, 42, of Florida, and Quintavalle Yrady, 36, of Panama, are each charged with one count of conspiring to use American Charter Services LLC and SVMI Solution, LLC to engage in transactions prohibited by the Kingpin Act and related regulations, and to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act and related regulations. If convicted, this count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
Special thanks for the outstanding efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, the DEA’s Miami Field Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. Thanks also to the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and OFAC.
This case is being handled by SDNY’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. The charges contained in the indictment and superseding indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The potential maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
The El Dorado Task Force is headquartered at the HSI New York Special Agent in Charge Office and at other locations in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area. Task force agents educate the private financial sector to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities and promote anti-money laundering legislation through training and other outreach programs. Prosecutors use a full range of criminal and civil laws to prosecute targets and forfeit the proceeds of their illicit activity. Since its inception, the Task Force has branched out to address all financial crimes – evolving into the largest, most successful financial crimes task force in the world.
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