Federal law enforcement agents arrested former Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced on Aug. 4 on bribery charges related to the financing of her 2020 election campaign.
The United States Justice Department alleged in an indictment that Vázquez took campaign donations from banker Julio Martin Herrera Velutini and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Mark Rossini while she was governor in 2019 and 2020.
Vázquez allegedly received more than $300,000 from Velutini and Rossini to finance political consultants in support of her campaign, according to the Justice Department.
In exchange for the campaign donations, Vázquez allegedly said she would appoint a new commissioner to Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions, which was investigating Velutini’s bank.
Vázquez, Velutini, and Rossini each face a charge of conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and honest services wire fraud. If convicted on all counts, they each face a maximum total of 20 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.
In March, Frances Diaz, the chief executive officer and president of the bank, and John Blakeman, a political consultant on Vazquez’s campaign, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Velutini and others to bribe a public official.
Both Diaz and Blakeman face up to five years in prison. Their sentencing hearings have not yet been scheduled, according to the Justice Department.
“The alleged bribery scheme rose to the highest levels of the Puerto Rican government, threatening public trust in our electoral processes and institutions of governance,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. said in a statement.
Vázquez told reporters after a court appearance that she was innocent.
“I assure you that they have committed a great injustice against me,” Vazquez said.
Vázquez is the first former governor to face federal charges.
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