NEW YORK (AP) — A former Guatemalan judge pleaded guilty Friday to wire fraud and conspiracy in the global soccer corruption probe, admitting that he accepted bribes from a company trying to secure sports marketing contracts.
Hector Trujillo, 63, took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for sports marketing contracts, U.S. prosecutors said.
Trujillo was general secretary of Guatemala’s soccer federation when he was arrested in December 2015 in Port Canaveral, Florida, while taking a Disney cruise with his family.
As he pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court, Trujillo admitted taking bribes and agreed not to contest any sentence less than four years and nine months in prison. He spoke through a Spanish interpreter, saying his crimes occurred between 2009 and 2016.
“I recognized that I deprived the federation of my honest services,” Trujillo said, appearing emotional enough that a court employee brought him a box of tissues. “I know that it was wrong for me to accept those payments.”
He said the bribes were paid by a Miami, Florida, sports marketing company to help it secure contracts through current and future negotiations. He said he received bribes in 2010 and 2014 and paid some of the proceeds to others. He said he never notified the soccer federation that he had received payments.
As part of the plea, Trujillo agreed to forfeit $175,000. Free on bail, he has been staying in Miami.
U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen set sentencing for Sept. 20.
Trujillo spent weeks in federal lock-ups in Oklahoma and New York before he was freed on $4 million bond in January 2016 and granted home detention in Newark, New Jersey. His lawyer said he had resigned his position on Guatemala’s Constitutional Court after he was charged.
FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, suspended the Guatemala Football Association in October.
Brayan Jimenez, the former president of the Guatemala association, was banned for life by FIFA in April after pleading guilty to racketeering and wire fraud.
The U.S. investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015. Many of the charges involve bribes paid around the organization of regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying games.
Prosecutors in Switzerland have also been investigating. FIFA has also conducted internal investigations of corruption and self-dealing that led it to ban its former president, Sepp Blatter, and longtime secretary general, Jerome Valcke.
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