February 28, 2021

Four accused of corruption in Puerto Rico plead not guilty

Four of the accused in Puerto Rico on corruption charges in contracts signed with the Department of Education and the Health Insurance Administration (ASES) were declared not guilty Wednesday before a federal judge, who warned that they are exposed to a sentence of Up to 20 years in prison.

Federal Judge Bruce McGiverin released them on bail after a hearing held in the Federal Court of the capital of Puerto Rico, a free State associated with the United States.

Federal authorities today carried out a series of arrests for alleged corruption cases involving contracts worth more than $ 15 million with the Department of Education and 2.5 million with ASES.

The arrests include the former director of ASES, Ángela Ávila; the president of BDO Puerto Rico, Fernando Scherrer, the contractor Glenda Ponce and his sister Mayra.

The bonds imposed were $ 1 million for Scherrer, for Avila $ 5,000 and the same amount for the two sisters.

A federal jury accuses them of 32 charges that include the conspiracy to commit fraud, theft and electronic fraud of money laundering.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, who was on vacation in Europe, announced his immediate return to the island due to the gravity of the events and reiterated his commitment to zero tolerance against corruption.

"The allegations against the people arrested today are a shame, our public policy is clear: we will fight corruption in all its forms, nobody is above the law, everyone who fails must face the consequences," Rosselló said of the latest arrests. .

The scheme consisted, basically, in favoring government contracts with the BDO company.

For some time, the FBI has been investigating the contracts granted from several agencies of the island's Government to the BDO accounting firm, including ASES and Education.

The president of the Senate of Puerto Rico, Thomas Rivera, said after hearing the information of the arrests that it is "imperative" that the governor, the representative of the island before the US Congress, Jenniffer González, and the legislative majority meet before the barrage of arrests.

The news of today's arrests complicates the already difficult situation facing Rossello, who has seen in recent weeks as news of accusations against him for alleged corruption.

We must also add the removal of key positions in the Executive as the Secretary of the Treasury, who reported an alleged pattern of irregularities in that agency without announcing it to the governor.

Yesterday, excerpts of a chat with private conversations were published between the Governor of Puerto Rico and his collaborators, a controversy that follows a similar case in 2018 that led to the departure of the former president of the State Elections Commission.

The part of the chat publicly disclosed includes ridicule to other public figures and in general private conversations between members of the Government of Puerto Rico that refer to people from the island's political life.

(tagsToTranslate) accused (t) corruption (t) Port (t) Rico (t) guilty

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