Washington, DC - A Florida man was sentenced Wednesday to 55 months in prison for his connection with a scheme to provide private charter flights to two prominent members of former Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle. He will also pay $250,000 in fines and undergo two years of supervised release as part of the sentence.
Victor Mones Coro, 52, of Florida was convicted by a federal jury for his involvement in a scheme to provide private charter flights to two prominent members of Former Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle: Former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah and his frontman, Samark Jose Lopez Bello. These flight services violated sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
“Mones Coro used subterfuge and lies to provide illegal flight services to top Venezuelan leaders, which provided political support for the unlawful Maduro regime,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “His actions undermined our national security and foreign policy, and their gravity is reflected in today’s sentence. Let this case serve as a warning to anyone else who risks the wellbeing of our nation for personal gain and profit.”
“Victor Mones Coro led a concerted, sustained multi-year scheme to provide millions of dollars’ worth of illicit flight services to Venezuelan leaders in direct contravention of our country’s sanctions regime and foreign policy,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York. “Today’s sentence serves as a reminder that, together with our law enforcement partners, we will aggressively prosecute sanctions violators to protect our national security.”
“We take a great deal of pride in working alongside the US Attorney’s Office and the Department of the Treasury to ensure that the integrity and intent of U.S. sanctions is preserved both at home and abroad. HSI, through myriad authorities, conducts criminal investigations to maintain the viability of the American financial system and prevent its misuse by foreign corrupt officials and narcotics traffickers,” said Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) New York Field Office. “Today, we are reminded of our steadfast commitment to holding those willing to violate such sanctions accountable. And to those who intend to circumvent our laws to gain power and further their corrupt practices through international crime, know you will be brought to justice.”
According to court documents, Mones Coro designed an elaborate criminal scheme to enrich himself and provide flight services to El Aissami and Lopez Bello, among other influential Venezuelans in Maduro’s inner circle, including the President of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, who had also been previously sanctioned by OFAC. In spearheading this criminal scheme, Mones Coro used his U.S.-based company American Charter Services (“ACS”), its planes and its employees to fly Lopez Bello, El Aissami, and others around the world, including to foreign countries of strategic importance to the Maduro regime such as Russia and Turkey.
Mones Coro also provided flights in furtherance of Maduro’s May 2018 campaign for reelection, a corrupt campaign through which Maduro illegitimately maintained control of Venezuela. Between approximately February and May 2018, Mones Coro and ACS arranged between 20 to 25 domestic Venezuelan flights for the Maduro campaign. These flights transported people, campaign materials, and food, among other things, and were coordinated with associates of El Aissami and Lopez Bello.
To avoid detection, Mones Coro and his co-conspirators, including Joselit Ramírez Camacho, Venezuela’s current Superintendent of Cryptocurrencies, engaged in various forms of subterfuge. They used code names, falsified flight manifests and invoices, communicated over encrypted messaging applications, received cash flown into the U.S. from Venezuela, and accepted wire transfers from a front company tied to the sanctioned Venezuelan leaders. Mones Coro also tried to cover his tracks by directing one of his pilots to lie to law enforcement.
Mones Coro perpetrated these crimes at a time when the U.S. and its allies were engaged in the crucial undertaking of depriving Venezuela and its leadership of resources for its malign, undemocratic, and deadly activities—including its systematic and oftentimes fatal repression of activists, its subversion of Venezuelan democratic institutions, and its corrupt plundering of Venezuela’s natural resources. Maduro and others are charged with narco-terrorism and related crimes in a Superseding Indictment also pending before Judge Hellerstein. In a separate Superseding Indictment, El Aissami, Lopez Bello, and Ramírez Camacho are charged with sanctions violations based on their roles in the scheme with Mones Coro.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, with assistance from the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and Office of Foreign Assets Control investigated the case.
Trial Attorney David Recker of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Same Adelsberg and Amanda Houle of the Southern District of New York prosecuted the case.