BOSTON – A retired U.S. Army colonel and the chief executive officer of an investment company were convicted today by a federal jury in Boston of conspiring to bribe senior officials of the Republic of Haiti in connection with a planned multi-billion dollar infrastructure project in that country.
Joseph Baptiste, 64, of Fulton, Md., and Roger Richard Boncy, 74, a dual U.S. and Haitian citizen who resides in Madrid, Spain, were convicted of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Baptiste was also convicted of one count of violating the Travel Act and one count of money laundering conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs scheduled sentencing for Sep. 12, 2019.
“Bribery of public officials corrodes public trust and victimizes the public these officials are supposed to serve,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “We will continue to target Americans who try to bribe foreign public officials for business advantage.”
“Richard Boncy and Joe Baptiste conspired to pay millions of dollars in bribes to Haitian officials to do business there,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s guilty verdict sends a strong message that those who use corrupt means to obtain unfair and illegal business advantages will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible by the Department of Justice.”
“Mr. Baptiste and Mr. Boncy had no problem soliciting bribes to funnel to senior government officials in Haiti through blatantly illegal means,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “Every dirty dollar they were trying to secure undermines those who are trying to conduct business lawfully. Cases like this only fuel the FBI’s commitment to tackling corruption, and today’s guilty verdict ensures that both of them will be held accountable for their actions.”
Baptiste and Boncy solicited bribes from undercover agents in Boston who posed as potential investors in infrastructure projects in Haiti in connection with a proposed project to develop a port in the Mole-Saint-Nicolas area of Haiti. The proposed project was expected to cost approximately $84 million and was to involve the construction of multiple cement factories, a shipping-vessel recycling station, an international transshipment station with numerous slips for shipping vessels, a power plant, a petroleum depot and tourist facilities. During a recorded meeting at a Boston-area hotel, Boncy and Baptiste told the agents that they would funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a non-profit entity that Baptiste controlled – which is based in Maryland and purported to help impoverished residents of Haiti – in order to secure government approval of the project.
In telephone calls intercepted pursuant to a court-authorized wiretap, Boncy and Baptiste discussed bribing an aide to a high-level elected official in Haiti with a job on the port development project in exchange for the aide’s help in obtaining the elected official’s authorization for the project. Boncy and Baptiste also told the undercover agents that they would hide the bribes through money falsely earmarked for social programs and that they would bribe officials at all levels of the Haitian government.
The charges of violating the Travel Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy each provide for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Lelling, AAG Benczkowski and FBI Boston SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kriss Basil of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit and Trial Attorney Elina A. Rubin-Smith of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.