Federal authorities arrested two mayors, and a federal judge heard a case about an alleged illegal donation scheme for the governor’s campaign.
High-profile corruption cases are shaking up politics in Puerto Rico and keeping federal authorities busy investigating alleged crimes on the island.
Campaign Donations Investigated
On Thursday, Joseph “Joey” Fuentes Fernández, pleaded guilty before a federal judge for falsifying or concealing the identity of the donors of the Save Puerto Rico campaign against Gov. Pedro Pierluisi’s rivals in the 2020 election season.
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Fuentes was the president of the main super PAC of Pierluisi’s campaign, a political committee that can spend unlimited sums of money on ads.
Donors contributed $495,000 to the campaign.
Jonathan Jacobson, a prosecutor of the Public Integrity division of the island, said that according to the scheme, the donors understood that they could benefit from remaining anonymous by not being linked to contributions and, at the same time, the public official could not be linked to those ads.
After news broke on Wednesday that Fuentes would plead guilty, Pierluisi issued written statements stating that his campaign committee did not coordinate anything with any PAC.
Also on Thursday, the FBI arrested two mayors: Reinaldo “Rey” Vargas Rodríguez of Humacao, and Javier García Pérez of Aguas Buenas, after a federal grand jury accused them of committing bribery to receive illegal kickbacks and extortion.
The head of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Puerto Rico, Stephen Muldrow, said that these cases are related to a corruption scheme that involves JR Asphalt and Waste Collection companies.
Muldrow explained the mayors are accused of having received cash payments from two companies in exchange for retaining the contracts for the respective contractors.
García Pérez allegedly received about $32,000 in illegal commissions, while Vargas Rodríguez received approximately $15,000.
In addition, former candidates for mayor of San Juan asked the Department of Justice of the island to investigate the current mayor of San Juan, Miguel Romero, for contracts awarded to the JR Asphalt.
Pierluisi demanded the immediate resignation of Vargas Rodríguez and García Pérez, and said this is another “hard blow to public trust.”
Joseph González, special agent in charge of Puerto Rico’s FBI office, and Corey Amundson, head of the Public Integrity Division in Washington DC, shared details of the case at a press conference in San Juan on Thursday.
With the arrests of Vargas and García, there are now six current and former Puerto Rican mayors who have been arrested on public corruption charges since 2020.