Ex-Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Arrested on Corruption Charges

Puerto Rico’s former Governor Wanda Vázquez was arrested Thursday morning on corruption charges, multiple media organizations are reporting.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed her arrest to Bloomberg.

A press conference will be held this morning at 11 a.m. to discuss the arrest, the spokesperson added.

Two other unidentified people were arrested along with her.

Vazquez lost her bid for a second term as governor in 2020.

“Today, we see once again, that no one is above the law in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in a statement.

“We all have to be united against this social evil, and under my administration, there is zero tolerance for corruption.”

According to The Washington Times:

“Vázquez was sworn in as governor in August 2019 after former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló stepped down following massive protests.

“She served until 2021, after losing the primaries of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party to now Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

“Vázquez previously served as the island’s justice secretary and a district attorney for more than 30 years.

“She became governor after Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court ruled that the swearing in of Pierluisi – who was secretary of state in 2019 – as governor was unconstitutional.

“Vázquez at the time said she was not interested in running for office and would only finish the nearly two years left in Rosselló’s term.”

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The DOJ made other arrests in an unrelated corruption case in Puerto Rico yesterday as well.

The Justice Department issued a statement that reads:

Mario Villegas-Vargas, 42, pleaded guilty today in Puerto Rico to engaging in a bribery scheme for paying kickbacks and bribes in exchange for being awarded municipal contracts that benefited his asphalt and paving company.

Beginning in or around June 2017, Villegas-Vargas and Individual B, co-owners of an asphalt and paving company, conspired to pay bribes and kickbacks to Félix Delgado-Montalvo, the former mayor of Cataño.

The purpose of these payments was to help ensure that their company would be awarded and continue to be awarded municipal contracts as opportunities arose in Cataño.

Together, Villegas-Vargas and Individual B paid more than $95,000.00 in kickback payments to Delgado when he was the mayor of Cataño in exchange for asphalt removal and concrete paving contracts in the municipality.

Villegas-Vargas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in a bribery scheme.  He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Gonzalez of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office made the announcement. 

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.

Trial Attorneys Nicholas W. Cannon and Ryan H. Crosswell of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant United States Attorney Seth A. Erbe of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.

This case is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to combat public corruption by municipal officials in Puerto Rico.

In addition to the above matters, the Public Integrity Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico have recently obtained convictions against other former public officials and contractors in the District of Puerto Rico for soliciting and accepting bribes related to municipal contracts.

See United States v. Félix Delgado-Montalvo, 21-463 (RAM); United States v. Oscar Santamaria-Torres, 21-464 (RAM); United States v. United States v. Raymond Rodríguez, 21-465 (RAM); United States v. Luis Arroyo-Chiques, 21-485 (SCC); United States v. Eduardo Cintron-Saurez, 22-151 (SCC); United States v. Ramon Conde-Melendez, 22-221 (PAD); Pedro Marrero-Miranda, 22-251 (RAM); and Jose Luis Cruz-Cruz, 22-276 (SCC).

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By David Hawkins

David Hawkins is a writer who specializes in political commentary and world affairs. He's been writing professionally since 2014.

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