By Paul Nicholson
October 26 – Former Guatemala Football Federation leader Hector Trujillo has been handed an eight month prison sentence and fined $415,000 by a Brooklyn federal court judge Pamela Chen. Trujillo is the first of the football officials in the FIFA corruption scandal to be sentenced in the US.
Trujillo was arrested in December 2015 in Port Canaveral, Florida, while on a Disney cruise. He was general secretary of the Guatemalan Football Federation from 2009 to 2015, and was also a judge on the country’s constitutional court.
Sentenced for taking $174,000 in bribes to steer contracts to Guatemala’s soccer federation to a Miami-based sports marketing firm (Traffic Sports USA), Trujillo spent a month in prison before being released on bail of $4 million, staying in the Miami area.
His defence lawyer asked that he spend no more than a month in prison as he had already received “sufficient punishment” due time spent in prison already, his bail conditions and the damage to his professional life.
US prosecutors had been requesting a custodial sentence of three years minimum as welkl as the fine.
Trujillo, 63, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy in June, and in summing up Judge Chen referred to the well-known culture of corruption within FIFA and its federations. “Bribery was rampant,” she said. “It was all over the world.”
Trujillo, speaking through a Spanish translator, was emotional in court, asking for forgiveness and saying that he had suffered enough and that the arrest had “brought his family the most terrible shame.”
Trujillo said that he had justified the bribes as payment for years of good work. “I was blinded. Reflecting on this, I have been able to understand the magnitude of this shameful mistake that I made,” he said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde warned that anyone who uses U.S. banks to facilitate corruption, including bribes, will be prosecuted.
Trujillo is the first in a long list of sentencing that will currently culiminate next July with the sentencing of former CONCACAF president Jeff Webb. Before getting to Webb the court will work its way through 27 former presidents of football federations in Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay.
Trujillo’s lawyer argued that in comparison with many of those charged he was the “least culpable”. If that is the case and his sentencing is the benchmark, then most of those officials can expect significant jail terms.
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