FIFA match agent pleads guilty

FIFA (AFP)
FIFA (AFP)

New York - A Colombian soccer consultant and match agent who was once licensed by FIFA, pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy in a New York City court on Tuesday.

He admitted that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure media and marketing contracts.

Miguel Trujillo, of Palm Beach County, Florida, was freed on $1.5 million bail after his appearance before U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie in Brooklyn.

The judge warned Trujillo, a Colombia citizen and U.S. legal permanent resident, that his plea to three conspiracy charges and a single count of filing a false tax return might force his deportation.

Dearie said prosecutors may choose to write a letter on his behalf urging leniency if he lives up to the terms of his plea agreement. Such a letter, he said, may influence how he sentences Trujillo on charges that otherwise could bring a prison term of up to 63 years.

Prosecutors said Trujillo has agreed to forfeit $495,000 after admitting to participating in multiple schemes to bribe soccer officials since 2008 while he was licensed by FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, to negotiate and arrange matches between FIFA member associations.

The government said Trujillo worked on behalf of multiple sports marketing companies and his own soccer business when he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe high-ranking officials of FIFA and four soccer federations in Central America and the Caribbean.

Trujillo said he worked with executives of a Miami-based sports marketing company, Media World, from 2008 to 2015 to pay the bribes to top officials.

He said he received wire transfers from the company's bank accounts in Miami into Panamanian accounts of companies he controlled before distributing the money to bank accounts at the direction of federation officials. He said he was paid money for his efforts by Media World, which is affiliated with Spanish media company Imagina Group.

"My co-conspirators in this scheme and I often used sham contracts and invoices in an effort to disguise the true nature of these transactions," Trujillo said. "I knew that what I was doing was wrong."

Ken Tolle, a Denver-based attorney with Imagina Group, said: "I don't comment on client matters."

The guilty plea came as part of an American prosecutors' probe into corruption in international soccer.

The charges against Trujillo, first unveiled publicly Tuesday, came in a branch of the FIFA probe that had already resulted in the arrests of 16 men, mostly from Central and South America.

An indictment alleges that defendants accepted bribes and kickbacks related to lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and other big soccer events.

U.S. prosecutors first announced the broader investigation in May with charges against 14 other individuals, including seven top FIFA officials arrested at a hotel in Zurich.

Several defendants have already pleaded guilty, including some not initially identified when charges were unveiled.

Trujillo's attorney declined to comment.

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