US$37M in shared U.S.-Dominican seized assets include sex motels(Update)
Santo Domingo. – The United States Government will yield to Dominican Republic’s judicial authorities US$7.5 million, or 20% of the US$37 million in assets seized from the Cuban-born brothers Carlos, Jose and Luis Manuel Benítez, and which include two motels mostly used for sexual interludes.
The Benítez are wanted in the U.S. on charges of scamming the Medicare system out of around US$80 million.
The money yielded by the U.S. Government will come from the Benítez brothers’ investments in real estate and other properties, says an agreement signed yesterday between U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, and Dominican Justice minister Radhamés Jiménez, after a meeting where they ratified both countries’ commitment to fight drug trafficking and organized crime more effectively.
Washington’s decision stems from the Justice Ministry’s support to locate, confiscate and liquidate Benítez’s properties, the fourth time the U.S. shares a part of them with this country in the last 10 years, as an acknowledgement of the mutual support.
Holder revealed that the United States and Dominican Republic work in the final details for a permanent agreement to share assets involving both nations in future cases that.
U.S. ambassador Raul Izaguirre also took part in the meeting, in which the judicial officials discussed human rights, citizen security, corruption and regional cooperation.
U.S. Embassy Statements
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
VISITS THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
MEETS WITH PRESIDENT FERNANDEZ AND SIGNS AN AGREEMENT WITH HIS DOMINICAN COUNTERPART
Remarks for Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Dinner with President Leonel Fernandez
“Progress through Partnership”
Monday, November 14, 2011
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Thank you, President [Leonel] Fernandez, for your kind words, and for welcoming me here this evening. It is a pleasure to be with you, and a privilege to bring greetings from President Obama. Over the last three years, as the two of you have taken part in wide-ranging discussions – at the Summit of the Americas; in the Oval Office, during your visit to Washington last summer; and through the many bilateral and regional channels of communication that your respective Administrations have forged and strengthened – I know that President Obama has come to consider you as a valued partner and friend.
It is in this spirit of friendship that I have traveled to your beautiful country. And I am grateful, on a very personal level, for this opportunity to help build upon the progress that our nations – and America’s allies throughout the Caribbean region – have made together over the years.
As some of you may know, my father and all four of my grandparents were born and raised in Barbados. And so, while I am a proud American who was born in the United States, in many respects, I was a child of the Caribbean. And I am very proud of that part of my heritage.
During my tenure as Attorney General, I have been honored – in my travels throughout this region – to reaffirm a promise that President Obama made shortly after taking office. At the opening of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, he pledged the United States’ best efforts in establishing strong, effective, mutually beneficial, and forward-looking partnerships with our Caribbean allies. And, this evening, I am proud to be here in the Dominican Republic to advance the goals and priorities that we share – particularly when it comes to law enforcement cooperation.
Today – when criminal enterprises know no borders, and when national problems often demand global solutions – there can be no doubt that our countries share both common values and mutual concerns: from securing our borders and fighting terrorism; to combating cybercrime, financial fraud, corruption, and organized crime; to eliminating gang- and gun-related violence, curbing drug trafficking, and reducing prisoner recidivism.
These challenges span our entire hemisphere – and, as a result, our nations’ security interests have become permanently intertwined. More than ever before, our ability to achieve effective and lasting security for our nations, and our entire region, will depend on our willingness to work together.
Fortunately, we all can, and should, be encouraged that our nations have signaled a new commitment to cooperation in recent years – and that we’ve taken decisive steps to make good on this commitment. My American colleagues and I have often had the opportunity to work closely with our counterparts in this country – and throughout the Caribbean – to develop collaborative strategies for addressing our most pressing needs, confronting our most urgent challenges, and meeting our most critical public safety responsibilities.
Today, the United States and the Dominican Republic are working together like never before – to investigate and prosecute transnational crime, to share intelligence and criminal information, and – ultimately – to better protect the citizens we serve. Every person in this room can be proud that the partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and your Prosecutor General’s office and law enforcement community has never been stronger.
Already, these bonds have led the Dominican Republic to become the fourth ranking country in the world when it comes to extraditing foreign nationals to the United States. And I’m happy to announce that, at the beginning of this month, a federal court in the United States cleared the way for us to extradite Eddy Bismarck Nunez Garrido to the Dominican Republic to face murder charges.
But I’m proud to say that all of this is only the beginning. Earlier today, I had the pleasure of meeting with Prosecutor General [Radhaméz Jiménez] Peña [“PAIN-ya”] to discuss ongoing law enforcement initiatives and cooperation between our countries, as well as additional opportunities for collaboration. Prosecutor Peña and I also signed an important forfeited asset sharing agreement, which relates to assets from the well-known case of the Benitez brothers, who defrauded an estimated 80 million dollars from the U.S. Medicare program, a program that serves the elderly, widows, orphans, and the disabled in the United States. The agreement will result in 20 percent of all assets recovered being shared with the Dominican government. An estimated 37 million dollars worth of criminal assets are currently in the process of being recovered by U.S. and Dominican law enforcement authorities here in the Dominican Republic.
Today’s signing was made possible by extraordinary – and, in many ways, unprecedented – levels of cooperation between American and Dominican law enforcement officials over the last two years. It marks the fourth time in a decade that the United States has recognized – through asset sharing – the remarkable forfeiture assistance that Dominican authorities have afforded to the United States. And it signals the opening of an historic new chapter in the critical relationship that exists between our two countries.
In fact – as many of you know – our nations have recently entered into negotiations for a permanent agreement that will govern our asset sharing relationship in the future. And both Prosecutor General Peña and I look forward to a rapid conclusion of these negotiations, and to the timely adoption of such an agreement.
Like President Fernandez, members of the Dominican government, and citizens across this country, the American people – and my colleagues at every level of our Department of Justice – are committed to advancing our joint interests and ensuring the security of our citizens. And we applaud the steps you’re already taking to address difficult challenges from an institutional perspective.
In addition to establishing a framework of critical laws and procedures that our countries – and our allies – can agree upon and embrace, we must utilize these laws and procedures to investigate and prosecute transnational crime. And we must continue to share intelligence and criminal information – police department to police department, prosecutor to prosecutor, forensic office to forensic office. Of course, as we fight crime, we must – and we will – respect the human rights of all persons, and work together to build justice systems that comport with the rule of law. With your support and collaboration, I am certain we can enhance the entire criminal justice process – from prevention, investigation, and prosecution to incarceration and, where possible, to rehabilitation and re-entry into society. And I want to assure you that the United States Department of Justice stands ready to support you in any way possible.
Despite the gravity of the challenges we face – and the fiscal difficulties that so many of us must confront on a daily basis – as I look at this group of leaders, allies, and friends, I am more confident than ever before that we can succeed in advancing our strong record of cooperation.
In this work, I am eager to pledge my own best efforts, as well as the strong support of President Obama and our colleagues throughout the government of the United States.
Once again, I want to thank Your Excellency for welcoming me this evening – and for the leadership and commitment you are bringing to the work we share. The United States is deeply grateful for your partnership, and I look forward to all that we will accomplish – together – in the critical days ahead.
DURING HIS STAY
Santo Domingo – The Embassy of the United States of America is pleased to announce the visit of the Attorney General of the United States, Eric H. Holder, Jr., who during his two-day stay in the country met with the President; signed an agreement with the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic, Radhames Jimenez Peña; and gave a keynote address in the Caryatid Room of the National Palace before an audience made up of a large group of representatives of the most diverse sectors of the country.
U.S. Attorney General Holder arrived in country Monday, November 14. His first official visit was to the headquarters of the Attorney General of the Republic where he was received by his Dominican counterpart, Dr. Radhames Jimenez Peña.
Accompanied by the Ambassador of the United States, Raul Yzaguirre, during the meeting the U.S. and Dominican Attorneys General spoke about the solid relationship that exists between the Dominican Republic and the United States in the area of law and security. Likewise, they touched on issues related to human rights, citizen safety, corruption, and regional cooperation, as well as effective ways to combat narcotrafficking and organized crime.
Immediately after the meeting, Attorneys General Holder and Jimenez Peña proceeded to sign an agreement where the United States committed to sharing approximately US$7.5 million from assets seized with the Office of the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic. The seized assets are from Benitez brothers Carlos, Jose and Luis Manuel, Cuban-Americans accused of defrauding the U.S. Medicare system for millions of dollars. The Benitez brothers invested part of this money in buildings and other assets in the Dominican Republic.
The decision to share these assets was due to the excellent support and cooperation that the Dominican Attorney General’s Office provided in locating, confiscating and seizing the Benitez brothers’ possessions and assets.
Likewise, the Attorneys General say they are currently working on and negotiating the final details of a permanent agreement for the repatriation of assets for future cases that may arise involving the United States and the Dominican Republic. It is expected that the agreement will be finalized soon.
VISIT TO PRESIDENT LEONEL FERNANDEZ
On the evening of Monday, November 14, Attorney General Holder met with President Leonel Fernandez in the National Palace. Upon the conclusion of his meeting with the Dominican leader, the U.S. Attorney General gave a keynote address entitled, “Progress Through Partnership: the Importance of International Judicial Cooperation between the Dominican Republic and the United States in Advancing Joint Law Enforcement and Public Security Goals.”
The speech was delivered in the Caryatid Room, before a large audience made up of high-level civil servants, Dominican military officials, representatives of the Judicial and Legislative branches, as well as representatives of the most diverse sectors of Dominican national life. The U.S. Attorney General spoke about the importance of regional cooperation in confronting threats, the fight against corruption at all levels of the government, and the importance of securing human rights.
At the conclusion of the speech, President Fernandez held a private dinner at the Palace in honor of Attorney General Holder.
MEETING WITH CIVIL SOCIETY REPRESENTATIVES
On Tuesday, November 15, the final day of his visit to the Republic, Attorney General Holder met with representatives of various Dominican civil society organizations at the Embassy. He emphasized the need for cooperation with civil society, community members, police, prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies in order to improve citizen security. The Attorney General also discussed the judicial sector, government corruption, and human rights. Representatives of Participación Ciudadana, Fundación Institucionalidad y Justicia (FINJUS), Asociación Nacional de Jóvenes Empresarios (ANJE) and Mujeres en Desarrollo participated in the meeting.
Eric H. Holder
Attorney General of the United States of America
Eric H. Holder, Jr. was sworn in as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2009 by Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Mr. Holder on December 1, 2008.
In 1997, Mr. Holder was named by President Clinton to be the Deputy Attorney General, the first African-American named to that post. Prior to that he served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1988, Mr. Holder was nominated by President Reagan to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Mr. Holder, a native of New York City, attended public schools there, graduating from Stuyvesant High School where he earned a Regents Scholarship. He attended Columbia College, majored in American History, and graduated in 1973. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1976.
While in law school, he clerked at the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund and the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. Upon graduating, he moved to Washington and joined the Department of Justice as part of the Attorney General’s Honors Program. He was assigned to the newly formed Public Integrity Section in 1976 and was tasked to investigate and prosecute official corruption on the local, state and federal levels.
Prior to becoming Attorney General, Mr. Holder was a litigation partner at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington.
Mr. Holder lives in Washington with his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, a physician, and their three children.