Businessmen Admit to Aviation Bribery Scheme

HOUSTON (CN) – Three Texans and a Mexican businessman pleaded guilty to paying more than $2 million in bribes to Mexican officials for government-aircraft maintenance contracts.

Kamta Ramnarine, 69, of Brownsville, is the former owner and general manager of Hunt Pan Am Aviation Inc., which provides airplane maintenance and fueling services at Brownsville-South Padre International Airport.

Daniel Perez, 69, also of Brownsville, owned a stake in Hunt Pan Am Aviation from 1993 to 2010, according to federal charges unsealed Dec. 20 and publicized Tuesday by federal prosecutors.

Perez and Ramnarine pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, admitting they paid cash bribes to several Mexican government officials from 2007 to 2015 for contracts to supply parts and maintenance services for airplanes owned by Mexican states, U.S. Attorney Ken Magidson’s office said in a statement.

Charging records for the defendants do not name the Texas companies or Mexican states involved. But Ramnarine is listed as the registered agent for Hunt Pan Am Aviation on Texas business tax records. His LinkedIn page also identifies him as the company’s general manager.

Perez and Ramnarine face up to five years in federal prison at their Jan. 30, 2017 sentencing.

The scam also involved Douglas Ray, 55, of Magnolia, Texas and Victor Hugo Valdez Pinon, 54, a Mexican citizen. Ray and Valdez pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They face up to 10 years in prison and fines at their Feb. 23 sentencing.

Ray wired nearly $200,000 in bribes from the bank account of his Houston-based company to the Texas bank accounts of several Mexican officials from March 2009 to February 2012, according to his charging document.

Prosecutors identify Ray’s company in court records only as Aviation Corporation A. A man named Doug Ray owns Global Aviation Services, an airplane maintenance provider at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, according to the company’s website. A company employee told Courthouse News on the phone Wednesday morning he didn’t know anything about Ray’s plea agreement and Ray wasn’t available to comment.

Ernesto Hernandez Montemayor, 55, and Ramiro Ascencio Nevarez, 58, both Mexican citizens and former officials of Mexican state government entities, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, prosecutors said.

Hernandez was the first of the six co-defendants to plead guilty in December 2015. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison at his Jan. 12, 2017 sentencing.

Ramnarine and Perez bribed Hernandez while he was employed by a Mexican state.

Nevarez pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

While employed as head of aircraft maintenance for a Mexican public university, Nevarez “attempted to conceal the corrupt scheme by creating fake commission agreements” to account for the thousands of dollars in bribes Ranmarine paid him to get the school’s business, according to charging documents.

Prosecutors worked with Department of Homeland Security and Internal Revenue Services investigators on the case.