Saturday, May 21, 2022

Two Puerto Rico Mayors Arrested and Charged with Accepting Bribes

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The mayors of two municipalities in Puerto Rico were arrested yesterday for allegedly engaging in conspiracy, soliciting bribes, and extortion.

According to the indictment, unsealed yesterday in the District of Puerto Rico, Javier García-Pérez, 46, Mayor of Aguas Buenas, was involved in a bribery conspiracy in which, from 2017 through 2021, he received and accepted cash payments from two businessmen in exchange for awarding municipal contracts for waste disposal services, asphalt and paving services, and debris removal and paying outstanding invoices on the contracts. The indictment alleges that García-Pérez received at least $32,000 in cash payments from the two businessmen from August 2020 through September 2021.

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A second indictment unsealed yesterday alleges that Reinaldo Vargas-Rodriguez, 48, Mayor of Humacao, was involved in a bribery conspiracy in which, from January to July 2021, he received and accepted cash payments from two businessmen in exchange for awarding municipal contracts for waste disposal and asphalt and paving services, and for paying outstanding invoices on the contracts. The indictment alleges that Vargas-Rodriguez received at least $15,000 in cash payments from the two businessmen from March 18, 2021, through April 15, 2021.

If convicted of all counts, García-Pérez and Vargas-Rodriguez each face up to 20 years in prison. 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 Assistant Director Luis M. Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

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The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.

The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Nicholas W. Cannon of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott H. Anderson for the District of Puerto Rico.

The cases are part of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to combat public corruption by municipal officials in Puerto Rico. In addition to the above matters, the Public Integrity Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico have recently obtained convictions against other former public officials and contractors in the District of Puerto Rico for soliciting and accepting bribes related to municipal contracts. See United States v. Luis Arroyo-Chiques, 21-485 (SCC); United States v. Eduardo Cintron-Suarez, 22-151 (SCC); United States v. Felix Delgado-Montalvo, 21-463 (RAM); United States v. Oscar Santamaria-Torres, 21-464 (RAM); United States v. Raymond Rodriguez, 21-465 (RAM).

Additionally, the department recently obtained indictments charging several former officials and contractors with bribery related to municipal contracts, and those cases are still pending.  See United States v. Mario Villegas-Vargas, 21-468 (FAB); United States v. Angel Perez-Otero, 21-474 (ADC); and United States v. Radames Benitez-Cardona, 21-475 (PAD).

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An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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