SEC Charges Brokerage Firm Executives in Kickback Scheme to Secure Business of Venezuelan Bank
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced another round of charges in its ongoing case against several individuals involved in a massive kickback scheme to secure the bond trading business of a state-owned Venezuelan bank.
The SEC alleges that two executives at New York City-based brokerage firm Direct Access Partners (DAP) were integral participants in the wide-ranging fraud. Benito Chinea, who was a co-founder and CEO of the firm, and Joseph DeMeneses, who was DAP’s managing partner of global strategy, devised and facilitated sham arrangements to conceal multi-million dollar kickback payments to a high-ranking Venezuelan finance official of the bank. In one instance, DeMeneses made kickback payments from funds he controlled to a shell entity controlled by the Venezuelan official, and Chinea arranged for the firm to reimburse DeMeneses. The allegations were made in a second amended complaint that the SEC submitted in federal court in Manhattan as part of its pending action against four individuals with ties to DAP as well as the head of DAP’s Miami office, who were charged last year for their roles in the scheme.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division today announced criminal charges against Chinea and DeMeneses.
“The corruption at Direct Access Partners reached the very top,” said Andrew M. Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “The schemers depended on Chinea as CEO to authorize outsized payments from the firm to be funneled as kickbacks to Venezuela.”
The filing of the SEC’s second amended complaint is subject to court approval. The SEC seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest and financial penalties against Chinea, who lives in Manalapan, N.J., and DeMeneses, who lives in Fairfield, Conn., as well as the five previously named defendants with ties to DAP, which has filed for bankruptcy.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Wendy Tepperman, Amanda Straub, and Michael Osnato of the New York Regional Office, and supervised by Amelia Cottrell. Howard Fischer is leading the SEC’s litigation. An SEC examination of DAP that that led to the investigation was conducted by members of the New York office’s broker-dealer examination staff. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.