HOUSTON – A former CITGO Petroleum employee is suing the company, alleging former CEO Nelson Martinez, who was arrested for corruption and theft, fired her for refusing to commit criminal acts.
Marisol Gomez filed the suit May 15 in Harris County District Court.
According to the lawsuit, Gomez was CITGO’s vice president of human resources. In the months preceding her termination, Martinez, CITGO’s then president and CEO, requested her to engage in criminal acts, specifically:
- Martinez requested Gomez to execute a $1.7 million contract that was part of a multi-million dollar kickback scheme with a company co-owned by his son, Charles Martinez, whereby millions of dollars from CITGO and a CITGO affiliate were sent to the company for little to no value in return, and the company then kicked-back some of the payments to Martinez – and also offered an illegal kickback to Gomez if she would sign the $1.7 million contract;
- Martinez requested Gomez to change the Plan Administrator on CITGO’s pension plan, so that the terms of the Plan could be changed. Doing so would have resulted in: a kickback payment from the Plan Administrator to Martinez that normally would go to a company charity fund; and raising Martinez’s monthly pension from approximately $2,700 per month, to approximately $17,300 a month, while raiding the pension of a large number of CITGO employees;
- Martinez requested Gomez to approve a CITGO contract with Yakima Trading Corporation or other Yakima entity owned or controlled by a fugitive Venezuelan billionaire named Samark Jose Lopez Bello. Samark Jose Lopez Bello is the primary front man for Tareck Zaidan El Aissami, an international narcotics trafficker, who is also the former executive vice president of Venezuela, and current minister of industries and national production, who reports directly to Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro. Samark Jose Lopez Bello used the Yakima entities to launder drug money for Tareck Zaidan El Aissami. This is why, the suit states, Gomez refused to do business with the Yakima entities, despite Martinez’s request to do so. After the U.S. charged both Samark Jose Lopez Bello and Tareck Zaidan El Aissami with criminal violations of the U.S. Kingpin Act, Samark Jose Lopez Bello went on the run, and is currently a fugitive from justice who eluded escape from U.S. authorities in the Dominican Republic just three days ago.
Had Gomez submitted to Martinez’s requests, and committed the illegal acts he asked of her, she would have violated, and could have been prosecuted, the suit states.
“Ms. Gomez repeatedly refused to engage in the criminally illegal actions that Martinez requested her to engage in,” the suit states. “As a result, on Martinez’s orders, on March 14, 2017, Ms. Gomez was terminated solely because she refused to commit the criminally illegal acts that Martinez asked of her.”
Gomez is suing for front and back pay, plus damages for her mental anguish.
She is also suing for exemplary damages.
Houston attorney Mark Oberti of Oberti Sullivan represents her.
Case No. 2019-11471