Puerto Rico Senator and Businessman Charged in Bribery Scheme
|U.S. Department of Justice June 22, 2010|
WASHINGTON—Puerto Rico Senator Hector Martinez Maldonado and Juan Bravo Fernandez, the former president of one of the largest private security firms in Puerto Rico, have been charged in an indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico for their alleged roles in a bribery scheme involving legislation beneficial to Bravo Fernandez’ business, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
The six-count indictment returned today in U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico charges Martinez Maldonado, 41, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Bravo Fernandez, 54, of San Juan, with bribery, traveling in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to commit these offenses. Martinez Maldonado is also charged with obstruction of justice.
According to the indictment, Martinez Maldonado was elected to the Puerto Rican Senate in 2004 and began serving a four-year term in January 2005. He was reelected in 2008. Bravo Fernandez was the president and chief executive officer of one of the largest private security firms in Puerto Rico.
According to the indictment, Bravo Fernandez allegedly conspired to secure the passage of two bills favorable to his business interests by bribing Martinez Maldonado and Jorge de Castro Font, a former Puerto Rican senator. According to the indictment, De Castro Font served in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives from 1989 to 2004, and served in the Puerto Rico Senate from 2005 to 2008. Beginning in 2005, De Castro Font served as chair of the Committee on Rules and Calendars, exercising significant control over which bills, confirmations and other matters were brought to a vote on the floor of the Senate and when they were brought to a vote. Beginning in 2005, Martinez Maldonado served as chair of the Public Safety Committee, exercising significant control over legislation related to the security and general welfare of Puerto Rico, and exercising legislative jurisdiction over issues related to community safety.
As alleged in the indictment, as chair of the Public Safety Committee and chair of the Committee on Rules and Calendars, Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font, respectively, exercised significant control over the fate of the legislation benefitting Bravo Fernandez’ business interests. According to the indictment, Martinez Maldonado’s committee had to approve both bills before De Castro Font could schedule them for a vote before the entire Senate. In order to secure passage of the two bills, Bravo Fernandez, Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font allegedly agreed that Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font would take official acts supporting the legislation benefitting Bravo Fernandez’ business interests in exchange for things of value provided by Bravo Fernandez. Specifically, Bravo Fernandez allegedly provided numerous cash payments to De Castro Font and used his company to surreptitiously pay De Castro Font’s debts with several businesses.
In addition, as alleged in the indictment, Bravo Fernandez agreed to provide to Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font a trip to Las Vegas to watch the May 14, 2005, boxing match between Felix “Tito” Trinidad and Winky Wright. As part of this agreement, Bravo Fernandez allegedly provided, among other things, first-class airfare, hotel rooms at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, tickets to the Trinidad vs. Wright boxing match worth $1,000, hotel rooms in Miami for the return trip, as well as meals and drinks. According to the indictment, on March 2, 2005, the day that Bravo Fernandez paid for the boxing tickets, Martinez Maldonado submitted one of the bills for consideration by the Puerto Rico Senate. Also, on April 21, 2005, Bravo Fernandez used his personal credit card to reserve a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The deposit for this hotel room was credited to Martinez Maldonado’s hotel room. According to the indictment, the reservation was made the day after Martinez Maldonado presided over a Public Safety Committee hearing at which Bravo Fernandez was the only representative from the private security industry to testify, and Martinez Maldonado authorized a committee report in support of one of Bravo Fernandez’ bills. On May 17, 2005, the day after the three men returned from their trip to Las Vegas, the Puerto Rico Senate approved one of the bills, while on May 18, 2005, the other bill was approved out of the committee chaired by Martinez Maldonado. That bill was passed by the Puerto Rico Senate on May 23, 2005.
Martinez Maldonado and Bravo Fernandez are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering, one count of interstate travel in aid of racketeering and one count of bribery. Martinez Maldonado is also charged with one count of obstruction of justice for attempting to threaten and corruptly persuade a former staffer to make false statements to the FBI during its investigation into this bribery scheme.
De Castro Font pleaded guilty on Jan. 21, 2009, to 20 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
The maximum penalty for each of the conspiracy and travel in aid of racketeering counts is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each bribery count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of justice charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter Koski and Marc Levin of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent until convicted through due process of law.