Florida soccer consultant pleads guilty in FIFA probe

by Reuters
Tuesday, 8 March 2016 23:25 GMT

(Adds details from court documents)

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters) - A Florida-based sports marketing consultant from Colombia pleaded guilty in a U.S. court on Tuesday as part of an investigation of corruption in world soccer's governing body FIFA, saying he had schemed to bribe various officials in the sport.

Miguel Trujillo pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to four counts including that he engaged in conspiracies to commit money laundering and wire fraud.

"I know that what I was doing was wrong," Trujillo said.

Under a plea deal, Trujillo, who also admitted to filing a false tax return, agreed to forfeit $495,000. He was released on a $1.5 million bond.

Trujillo, 65, is among 42 individuals and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation into 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.

Trujillo entered his plea shortly before Rafael Esquivel, another defendant, pleaded not guilty to charges related to his receiving bribes connected with the sale of tournament marketing rights.

Esquivel, a former Venezuelan national soccer federation president and executive committee member of the South American soccer confederation CONMEBOL, was arrested in Zurich in May with six other soccer officials. He was extradited on Monday.

Trujillo, a Colombian national living in Florida, had been an executive at Inter/ForeverSports Inc, a Miami-based sports marketing firm that later became Traffic Sports USA, the U.S. unit of Brazil's Traffic Group.

Since 2006, he was a self-employed consultant and was licensed by FIFA to act as a match agent for soccer federations and negotiate friendly matches. As a contractor, he organized international games for the Honduras national soccer team.

In court, Trujillo said from 2008 to 2015, he worked with executives from sports marketing firm Media World to pay bribes to soccer officials in Central America and the Caribbean for media and marketing rights for World Cup qualifier matches.

He also admitted to paying bribes to organize friendly matches between national soccer teams, many of which were played in the United States.

Trujillo said he participated in the schemes alongside Roger Huguet, Media World's former chief executive, and Fabio Tordin, another executive. Both pleaded guilty in November. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York, additional reporting by David Ingram and Mica Rosenberg in New York; editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool)

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