Puerto Rico Senator and Businessman Convicted in Bribery Scheme
|U.S. Department of Justice March 08, 2011|
WASHINGTON—Puerto Rico Senator Hector Martinez Maldonado and Juan Bravo Fernandez, the former president of one of the largest private security companies in Puerto Rico, were convicted by a jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for their roles in a bribery scheme involving legislation beneficial to Bravo Fernandez’s business, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
Martinez Maldonado , 42, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, and Bravo Fernandez, 55, of San Juan, were each convicted late yesterday of federal program bribery. In addition, Bravo Fernandez was convicted of traveling in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit to travel in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering. Martinez Maldonado was acquitted of conspiracy, traveling in interstate commerce in aid of racketeering, and obstruction of justice.
“By participating in a brazen scheme involving the exchange of cash and lavish trips for votes and official acts, these defendants subverted the democratic process,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Now they are seeing the consequences. As these convictions show, the Justice Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting public corruption wherever we find it.”
“Corruption relies on connections, forcing businessmen to forge questionable relationships with government officials, who facilitate their requests and grant them favors. This corrupt behavior, ingrained so deeply in the Puerto Rican government's fabric, allows money and power to become one. Law abiding citizens must denounce those dishonest government officials in order to weed out corruption from our society,” said Luis Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-San Juan Field Office.
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 Ranger American, one of the largest private security firms in Puerto Rico.
The jury convicted the defendants for their role in a bribery scheme in which Bravo Fernandez 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. 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 Chairman 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 Chairman of the Puerto Rico Public Safety Committee, exercising significant control over legislation related to the security and community safety.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font exercised significant control over the fate of the legislation benefitting Bravo Fernandez’s business interests. Specifically, Martinez Maldonado’s committee had jurisdiction over Bravo Fernandez’s two bills and was required to approve the legislation before De Castro Font could schedule them for a vote before the entire Senate. Evidence at trial showed that in order to secure passage of the two bills, Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font made an agreement with Bravo Fernandez to take official acts supporting the legislation benefitting his business interests in exchange for things of value provided by Bravo Fernandez. Specifically, Bravo Fernandez provided numerous cash payments to De Castro Font.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Bravo Fernandez also agreed to provide to Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font a trip to Las Vegas to watch the May 14, 2005, championship boxing match between Winky Wright and Felix “Tito” Trinidad, a popular Puerto Rican boxer. As part of this agreement, Bravo Fernandez 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. Evidence at trial showed that 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 court documents, the reservation was made the day after Martinez Maldonado presided over a Public Safety Committee hearing for one of the two bills at which Bravo Fernandez was the only representative from the private security industry to testify. Martinez Maldonado authorized a committee report in support of Bravo Fernandez’ bill immediately after the hearing. According to evidence at trial, on May 17, 2005, the day after the three men returned from their trip to Las Vegas, Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font both cast their vote in support of one of Bravo Fernandez’ bills in front of the entire Puerto Rico Senate. On May 18, 2005, the other bill was approved by the Puerto Rico Public Safety Committee, Chaired by Martinez Maldonado. That bill was passed by the Puerto Rico Senate on May 23, 2005.
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.
Bravo Fernandez faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conspiracy and travel in aid of racketeering and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the bribery count. Martinez Maldonado faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the bribery count. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 7, 2011.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter Koski and Deborah Sue Mayer of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI.