Ex-Guatemalan Judge Gets 8 Months in FIFA Corruption Scandal

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A former official with the international soccer governing body FIFA was sentenced Wednesday to eight months in federal prison for wire fraud.

Hector Trujillo, 64, was the former general secretary of Fenafutg, the Guatemalan soccer federation, and also was an alternate judge in Guatemala’s Constitutional Court.

U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen presided over Trujillo’s 2:30 sentencing hearing. In addition to prison time, Trujillo must pay $415,000 in restitution and $175,000 in forfeiture.

Trujillo was indicted in November 2015 after an unprecedented investigation found scores of soccer officials and the heads of affiliated businesses paid more than $200 million in bribes to influence the awarding of tournament marketing rights, the locations chosen for World Cup matches and more.

One of dozens of individuals indicted as part of the conspiracy in Brooklyn, Trujillo was charged with 92 counts including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

FBI agents arrested Trujillo while his family was vacationing in December 2015 on a Disney cruise ship that docked in Florida. Apart from a month in custody, Trujillo has been awaiting sentencing in Miami on $4 million bail.

The FIFA investigation so far has produced 40 indictments or guilty pleas, but Trujillo is the first of these individuals to be sentenced in the United States.

Defense attorney Florian Miedel asked Judge Chen to consider Trujillo’s case independently of the others rather than trying to set a precedent for other defendants.

“It’s always scary to be first,” Miedel said.

As part of his guilty plea this past June, Trujillo admitted to receiving about $200,000 in illegal kickbacks, wired through a construction company in the U.S. and through a Panamanian bank account, from Miami-based company Media World.

He and former Fenafutg president Brayan Jimenez took the bribes in exchange for selling Media World the overseas media and marketing rights for Guatemala’s home matches in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and then renewing the contract for the 2022 qualifiers.

Jimenez pleaded guilty to separate charges in July.

Chen spoke during the hearing about the culture of corruption “among soccer associations all over the world” and the “open secret” of bribery. Media World, she said, would have factored the bribes into the amount they were willing to pay for the contracts — meaning Fenafutg lost out on that money.

A sentencing memo by the U.S. Attorney’s Office says Trujillo’s misconduct cost the Guatemalan soccer community “over $400,000 in sorely needed funds that should have gone towards youth or women’s soccer development” in a “poverty-stricken country.” Chen emphasized that in her sentencing.

Trujillo choked up several times during a 25-minute statement to the court through a Spanish interpreter. He apologized to his family and said he had spent his entire career “fighting against corruption and injustice in my own country.”

Women in the front row wiped their eyes with tissues as he spoke.

“Looking back, I think I was blinded,” Trujillo said on why he accepted the bribe. He assured the court that he had learned his lesson.

Trujillo’s attorneys have argued that, while he violated FIFA ethics rules, he didn’t break any Guatemalan laws.

Chen disagreed, saying the extent to which Trujillo went to conceal his actions indicated he knew they were wrong.

“He clearly violated our laws,” she said. The crime was more serious because Trujillo was a lawyer and a judge, she added.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of nearly four years in prison.

%d bloggers like this: