Saturday, September 24, 2022

Former Puerto Rico Legislator Sentenced for Bribery and Kickback Scheme

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A former Puerto Rico legislator was sentenced today to 57 months in prison for engaging in a bribery and kickback scheme. He was also ordered to pay $190,000 in restitution.

Nelson Del Valle Colon, 56, of Dorado, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty in the District of Puerto Rico to federal program bribery in March. According to court documents, Del Valle Colon was elected to be a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives in 2016. He thereafter hired Mildred Estrada-Rojas, 55, and her daughter, Nickolle Santos-Estrada, 33, both of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, to work in his legislative office. In exchange for their employment and their salaries, however, Estrada and Santos paid biweekly kickbacks to Del Valle Colon of between approximately $500 and $1,300 from early 2017 until approximately July 2020.

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According to statements made in connection with their pleas, Del Valle Colon, Estrada, and Santos admitted that the biweekly kickbacks were paid in a variety of ways. Estrada and Santos generally paid their biweekly cash kickbacks in envelopes that they provided to Del Valle Colon in offices in the Capitol building in Old San Juan. Estrada sometimes paid her kickback to Del Valle Colon over ATH Móvil, a mobile phone cash transfer application.

Estrada is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28. Santos is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 16. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph González of the FBI San Juan Field Office made the announcement.

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The FBI’s San Juan Field Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Jonathan E. Jacobson the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Anderson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.

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