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Former Venezuelan Soccer Official Pleads Guilty in FIFA Corruption Case

Former Venezuelan Football Federation president Rafael Esquivel exits the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York, March 10, 2016. Esquivel pleaded guilty to seven counts of racketeering, money laundering conspiracies and wire fraud.

Former Venezuela soccer federation president Rafael Esquivel was found guilty Thursday on federal charges resulting from a massive FIFA corruption scandal.

He pleaded guilty to seven counts of racketeering, money laundering conspiracies and wire fraud. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

“Esquivel used his influence as a soccer official to obtain millions of dollars in bribe payments," U.S. officials said in a statement.

Esquivel, who also is a former vice president of the South American Football Confederation, has been linked to bribes in awarding sports marketing contracts associated with Copa America.

He agreed to forfeit $16 million, raising total forfeitures in the scandal to more than $200 million.

Esquivel was arrested in Zurich in May 2015. He was extradited to the United States in March and was among six defendants scheduled to face trial in 2017.

U.S. involved in investigation

The other five senior FIFA figures are still under house arrest.

This case, which sparked an unprecedented crisis at FIFA, is part of a U.S. investigation into corruption among the organization's former senior figures.

At the time of Esquivel's arrest, other federations and former athletes in the sport voiced their dismay.

Maradona supports arrests

The Brazilian soccer federation said it "fully supports any type of investigation" into corruption in soccer and "reaffirms its commitment to the truth and transparency."

Argentine football great Diego Maradona applauded the arrest of top FIFA officials.

Esquivel was president of the Venezuelan soccer federation from 1988 to 2015. His lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.