A former partner and part-owner of Mexico’s InvestaBank SA has pleaded guilty to a U.S. charge that he fraudulently obtained $21 million in tax refunds from the Mexican government.
According to Reuters, 57 year-old Carlos Djemal Nehmad was sentenced to six years and three months in prison by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan.
Djemal pleaded guilty to wire fraud in September. Under his plea deal, prosecutors dropped related money-laundering charges, and Djemal agreed to a $21 million money judgment. In addition, he cannot appeal the sentence.
“I was extremely disappointed in the length of the sentence,” said Ronald Fischetti, Djemal’s lawyer. “He lived a law abiding life up to this one mistake. No one in the United States lost any money whatsoever.”
Djemal, formerly a partner and 25 percent owner of InvestaBank, was arrested in November 2016 with three other men: Daniel Blitzer, Roberto Moreno and Max Fraenkel.
From 2011 to 2016, Djemal and the three other defendants fraudulently claimed tax refunds from the Mexican government by purchasing outdated cell phones through front companies and then selling them to front companies in the United States. Mexican companies are able to claim tax refunds by exporting certain products, including cell phones, from Mexico to other countries.
The defendants were able to keep the scheme going because once the phones reached the United States, they were shipped back to Mexico so they could be reused in the same way.
During this time, the Mexican government paid out about $21 million in tax refunds to the front companies, and the four defendants moved more than $100 million through accounts maintained by those companies.
The other three defendants also pleaded guilty to the charges, with Blizter and Moreno each sentenced to six months and Fraenkel sentenced to time served.
Djemal’s involvement with InvestaBank ended in January 2017, according to a spokeswoman for the company.