Florida soccer consultant pleads guilty in FIFA probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2016 12:15 PM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Florida-based sports marketing consultant pleaded guilty in a U.S. court on Tuesday as part of an investigation of corruption in soccer and FIFA, its world governing body, saying he had schemed to bribe some officials in the sport.

Miguel Trujillo, 65, pleaded guilty during a hearing in federal court in New York to four counts, including conspiracy to commit money-laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

"I know what I was doing was wrong," Trujillo said in court.

Under an agreement with prosecutors, Trujillo pledged to forfeit $495,000. U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie approved his release on a $1.5 million bond.

Trujillo, who prosecutors said is a Colombian citizen and a U.S. legal permanent resident, is among 42 individuals and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation of schemes involving more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.

The investigation has sent Switzerland-based FIFA and other governing bodies into an unprecedented crisis. Gianni Infantino, FIFA's newly elected president, has vowed to lead the organization out of years of scandal.

In addition to consulting work, Trujillo was a "match agent" licensed by FIFA to negotiate and arrange soccer matches between national associations, prosecutors said in a news release.

Starting in about 2008, Trujillo paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to high-ranking officials of FIFA and other governing bodies, in connection with media and marketing contracts as well as international friendly matches, according to the news release.

Appearing separately in the same court on Tuesday, Rafael Esquivel, another of the 42 defendants, pleaded not guilty to receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of tournament marketing rights.

Esquivel, a former president of the Venezuelan national soccer federation and a former executive committee member of the South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL, was arrested in Zurich in May. He agreed to be extradited to the United States last month.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Additional reporting by David Ingram and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Dan Grebler and Bill Trott)