Direct Access Partners ("DAP") was an SEC-registered brokerage firm with its principal place of business on Wall Street. DAP provided fixed-income trading services for institutional clients, including the purchase and sale of foreign sovereign debt.
Benito Chinea ("Chinea") was the Chief Executive Officer of DAP and worked at the company's headquarters in New York, New York.
Joseph DeMeneses ("DeMeneses") served as a Managing Director in the Global Markets Group of DAP and worked at the company's headquarters in New York, New York.
Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt ("Clarke") served as an Executive Vice President in fixed income within DAP Global, working out of DAP’s Miami branch office, until May 2013.
Jose Alejandro Hurtado ("Hurtado") was hired by DAP as a purported non-registered “back office” employee on July 1, 2009.
Haydee Leticia Pabon ("Pabon") was the Director for International Sales in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Russia for a Miami-based distributor of Venezuelan cable television network programs. She was also the then-fiancee of Jose Alejandro Hurtado.
Iuri Rodolfo Bethancourt ("Bethancourt") was the President of ETC Investment, S.A. (“ETC”), a Panama corporation formed in 2004, but Clarke held a power of attorney for ETC and exercised control over ETC’s bank accounts. Bethancourt worked as a bank teller and operations officer at various banks in Panama.
Ernesto Lujan ("Lujan") served as the Managing Partner of DAP Global and was responsible for running DAP’s Miami office until May 2013.
From at least early 2009 through at least 2011, Chinea, DeMeneses, Clarke, Hurtado, Pabon, Bethancourt, and Lujan participated in a kickback scheme in which they made payments to Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez de Hernandez, who worked at various times as either the Vice President of Finance or the Executive Manager of Finance and Funds Administration of the Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela ("BANDES"). These payments were made in exchange for Gonzalez's directing BANDES business to DAP and authorizing BANDES to execute bond trades with DAP. The kickbaks were made through several methods. First, approximately $8.6 million in payments were made to Pabon who then kicked back approximately $1.7 million to Gonzalez. After that method became untenable due to the marriage of Hurtado and Pabon, Hurtado was directly hired by DAP, and his salary and bonuses, which amounted to approximately $6.1 million in 2009 - 2010, were used to make payments to Gonzalez. Third, payments were made through ETC in 2009 and through Bethancourt directly in 2010. Approximately $20.3 million in payments were made through ETC and Bethancourt, of which approximately $5.6 million was then paid to Gonzalez. Finally, DeMeneses and Clarke made some direct payments to Gonzalez, which were then disguised in DAP's books as "loans." In 2011, these direct payments amounted to $1.576 million. In all, this scheme generated approximately $66 million in revenue for DAP, of which approximately $9.1 million were kicked back to Gonzalez.
On May 7, 2013, the SEC filed a 5 count Complaint in the Southern District of New York against Clarke, Hurtado, Pabon, and Bethancourt. On June 12, 2013, the SEC filed a 5 count First Amended Complaint in the S.D.N.Y. against the same defendants, adding Lujan fifth named defendant. And on April 28, 2014, the SEC filed a 9 count Second Amended Complaint alleging securities fraud in the S.D.N.Y. against the same defendants, adding Chinea and DeMeneses as the sixth and seventh named defendants, respectively. No violations of the FCPA were alleged.
On April 6, 2016, the court issued final judgments against Clarke, Hurtado, Pabon, Bethancourt, Lujan, and DeMeneses based on consent agreements entered into by each defendant with the SEC. The court enjoined each defendant from future violations of the securities laws they were charged with violating. Clarke was ordered to pay $5,787,824 in disgorgement. Hurtado was ordered to pay $11,896,743 in disgorgement. Pabon was not ordered to pay a fine or disgorgement. Lujan was ordered to pay $18,514,560 in disgorgement. Chinea was ordered to pay $3,636,432 in disgorgement. DeMeneses was ordered to pay $2,670,612 in disgorgement. The defendants' disgorgement amounts were deemed satisfied by forfeiture payments in related DOJ actions.
On April 7, 2016, the court entered a default judgment against Bethancourt enjoining him from future violations of the securities laws he was charged with violating.