October 6, 2022


PUERTORICO-HEALTH-IOS
FILE: Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced speaks during a news conference to announce strict new rules for all passengers flying to Puerto Rico to limit cases of the coronavirus in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on June 30, 2020.

RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images


Former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez-Garced was arrested Thursday by federal officials on bribery charges related to her 2020 gubernatorial campaign.

Vazquez-Garced is charged with seven counts and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Thursday in federal court for the District of Puerto Rico.

According to the indictment, he allegedly participated in a bribery scheme from December 2019 to July 2020 with several individuals, including Venezuelan-Italian bank owner Julio Martin Herrera Velutini. bank president Frances Diaz; former FBI agent Mark Rossini; and political consultant John Blakeman.

A Justice Department press release said Diaz and Blakeman pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme.

In early 2019, Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF), which oversees financial institutions operating in Puerto Rico, began investigating Herrera Velutini’s bank.

In a press conference, Puerto Rican authorities claimed that Rossini and Herrera Velutini agreed to financially support Vazukez-Garcend’s re-election campaign if she fired the OCIF commissioner and appointed a new adviser.

“The indictment alleges that Vazquez-Garced accepted the bribery agreement,” Stephen Muldrow, U.S. attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, said Thursday.

In February 2020, Vazquez-Garced asked the OCIF commissioner to resign, according to Muldrow.

Four months later, he named the new commissioner, who the US claims was “personally selected” by Herrera Velutini.

In return, prosecutors say Herrera Velutini and Rossini supported Vazquez-Garcend’s campaign by paying more than $300,000 in political consulting fees.

Vazquez-Garced lost her primary to incumbent Pedro Pierluisi.

The indictment also alleges that Herrera Velutini tried to bribe Pierluigi, who succeeded Vazquez-Garcend, to end the investigation against his bank. In return, he would finance and support Pierluigi’s campaign.

“This charge does not support any illegal or wrongful actions against the acting governor,” Multrow clarified.

A judge set bail at $50,000 after Vazquez-Garced was arrested at her San Juan home.

“To my people in Puerto Rico and to everyone, I am innocent. They have committed a huge injustice … I can say that I have not committed any crime,” Vazquez-Garced told reporters as she left federal court in Puerto. Rico.

Vazquez took office in August 2019 after weeks of protests led to the resignation of then-governor. Ricardo Rossello. Before being sworn in, he led the Puerto Rico Department of Justice and was a prosecutor for more than 20 years.

This is Vazquez-Garced’s second scandal. He was under scrutiny after he fired a government official who had called for an independent investigation into how aid was distributed after the 6.4-magnitude earthquakes that hit the island in January 2020.

After her arrest, Pierluigi said in a statement: “Once again, we see today that no one is above the law in Puerto Rico.”

“I repeat that in my administration, we will continue to stand together with the federal authorities against anyone who commits any wrongdoing… under my administration there is zero tolerance against corruption,” Pierluisi added.



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