Ex-Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez Arrested For Bribery

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez was arrested Thursday connected bribery charges related to the financing of her 2020 campaign, marking the archetypal clip that a erstwhile person of the land faces national charges.

Two different unidentified radical were arrested on with her, said an official, who was not authorized to speech astir the national case.

Vázquez is accused of engaging successful a bribery strategy from December 2019 done June 2020 with respective people, including a Venezuelan-Italian slope owner, a erstwhile FBI agent, a slope president and a governmental consultant.

The consultant, identified arsenic John Blakeman, and the slope president, identified arsenic Frances Díaz, person pleaded blameworthy to participating successful the bribery scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In aboriginal 2019, the slope owned by Julio Martín Herrera Velutini was being scrutinized by Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions.

Authorities said Herrera and Mark Rossini, the erstwhile FBI cause who provided consulting services to Herrera, allegedly promised to financially enactment Vázquez’s 2020 run for politician successful speech for Vázquez dismissing the commissioner and appointing a caller 1 of Herrera’s choosing.

Authorities said Vázquez accepted the bribery connection and successful February 2020 demanded the commissioner’s resignation. She past was accused of appointing a erstwhile advisor for Herrera’s slope arsenic the caller commissioner successful May 2020. After the move, officials said Herrera and Velutini paid much than $300,000 to governmental consultants to enactment Vázquez’s campaign.

After Vázquez mislaid the superior to Pierluisi, authorities said Herrera past allegedly sought to bribe him to extremity an audit into his slope with favorable presumption for him. Herrera is accused of utilizing intermediaries from April 2021 to August 2021 to connection a bribe to Pierluisi’s representative, who was really acting nether FBI orders, according to the indictment.

Officials said Herrera past ordered a $25,000 outgo to a governmental enactment committee successful hopes of trying to bribe Pierluisi.

Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico, said Pierluisi is not progressive successful the case.

Vázquez, Herrera and Rossini are each charged with conspiracy, national programs bribery and honorable services ligament fraud. If they are recovered blameworthy connected each counts, they could look up to 20 years successful prison, officials said.

Meanwhile, Díaz and Blakeman could look up to 5 years successful prison, officials said.

Muldrow said officials judge Herrera is successful the United Kingdom and Rossini successful Spain. It wasn’t wide if the U.S. would question to extradite them.

Juan Rosado-Reynés, a spokesperson for Vázquez, told the AP helium did not person contiguous comment.

Attorneys for the different suspects charged successful the lawsuit could not beryllium instantly reached for comment.

In mid-May, Vázquez’s lawyer told reporters that helium and his lawsuit were preparing for imaginable charges arsenic the erstwhile politician astatine the clip denied immoderate wrongdoing: “I tin archer the radical of Puerto Rico that I person not committed immoderate crime, that I person not engaged successful immoderate amerciable oregon incorrect conduct, arsenic I person ever said.”

Vázquez was the 2nd pistillate to service arsenic Puerto Rico’s politician and the archetypal erstwhile politician to look national charges. Former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá was charged with run concern violations portion successful bureau and was recovered not blameworthy successful 2009. He had been the archetypal Puerto Rico politician to beryllium charged with a transgression successful caller history.

Vázquez was sworn successful arsenic politician successful August 2019 aft erstwhile Gov. Ricardo Rosselló stepped down pursuing monolithic protests. She served until 2021, aft losing the primaries of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party to present Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

In a connection Thursday, Pierluisi said his medication volition enactment with national authorities to assistance combat corruption.

“No 1 is supra the instrumentality successful Puerto Rico,” helium said. “Faced with this quality that surely affects and lacerates the assurance of our people, I reiterate that successful my administration, we volition proceed to person a communal beforehand with national authorities against anyone who commits an improper act, nary substance wherever it comes from oregon who it whitethorn implicate.”

Vázquez antecedently served arsenic the island’s justness caput and a territory lawyer for much than 30 years.

She became politician aft Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court ruled that the swearing successful of Pierluisi — who was caput of authorities successful 2019 — arsenic politician was unconstitutional. Vázquez astatine the clip said she was not funny successful moving for bureau and would lone decorativeness the astir 2 years near successful Rosselló’s term.

Rosselló had resigned aft tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the street, aggravated implicit corruption, mismanagement of nationalist funds and an obscenity-laced chat successful which helium and 11 different men including nationalist officials made amusive of women, cheery radical and victims of Hurricane Maria, among others.

Shortly aft she was sworn in, Vázquez told the AP that her priorities were to combat corruption, unafraid national hurricane betterment funds and assistance assistance Puerto Rico retired of a heavy economical situation arsenic the authorities struggled to look from bankruptcy.

During the interview, she told the AP that she had agelong wanted to beryllium successful nationalist service: arsenic a girl, she would basal connected her balcony and clasp imaginary trials, ever uncovering the expected defendants guilty.

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