In 2001, a start-up phone company set up shop in a Miramar office park, looking to corner the market on international calls from Little Haiti to Port-au-Prince.
It was a great business plan in Miami. Unfortunately, according to the feds, the company's execs decided there was only one way to make it happen: pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes into Haitian leaders' bank accounts.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami charged three executives from the company -- called Telecom Consulting Services Corp. -- with more than a dozen counts of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering, says Annette Castillo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney.
Soon after the company was opened on Miramar Parkway near SW 184th Avenue, its execs began courting officials from Haiti's state-owned telecom monopoly, Telecommunications D'Haiti, according to the indictment.
It didn't hurt that the company's president, Marguerite Grandison, had a family connection. Her brother, Jean Rene Duperval, worked as director of international relations for Haiti's phone company.
Over the next four years, working through Duperval, Telecom Consulting Services wired more than $800,000 to top Haitians in exchange for service rate advantages, free minutes, and other perks, the feds say.
The Miramar execs also set up a series of shell companies to launder the payments and hide the bribes.
The feds also picked up two officials from the Haitian monopoly who now live in Miami. Presumably, quite a few others are still doing business in Port-au-Prince.
Here are the defendants:
- Joel Esquenazi, 53, of Miami, was the former president of Telecom Consulting Services. He faces 22 felony charges.
- Carlos Rodriguez, 53, who lives in Davie and was vice president of the company, faces the same charges.
- Marguerite Grandison is a 40-year-old Miramar resident and former company president. She too faces 22 felony counts.
- Jean Rene Duperval, a 43-year-old Haitian national who now lives in Miramar, worked as director of international relations for the Haitian phone company. He's charged with 13 counts of money laundering or attempted money laundering.
- Robert Antoine, 61, another Haitian now living in Miami, worked with Duperval in Haiti and faces one count of attempted money laundering.