Attorney Charged with Concealing a Fugitive from Arrest
SAN JUAN, PR—On September 16, 2014, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against state criminal defense attorney, Lemuel Velilla Reyes, charged with concealing a person from arrest, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. This investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Public Corruptions Squad and the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
On July 14, 2011, Velilla-Reyes legally represented federal fugitive Wilfredo Rodríguez- Rodríguez, aka “Fredo”, aka “Cape”, aka “Capellan”, under the false name of “Felix Otero-Torres” on local drug and weapon charges.
Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rodríguez has an outstanding arrest warrant since July 14, 2010, in a federal case U.S. v. José Colón-de Jesus, et. al. Crim. No. 10-251 (JAF) where he is listed the fifth individual in the 110 codefendant indictment for participating as a leader in a drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute controlled substances at the Virgilio Davila, Las Gardenias, Brisas de Bayamón, and Falin Torrech housing projects, and other areas within the Bayamon Municipality. Velilla-Reyes was known as the attorney for the drug trafficking organization which Rodríguez-Rodríguez was a part of, and had legally represented him in a prior criminal state case in 2006.
In the early morning hours of July 14, 2011, the Police of Puerto Rico arrested Rodríguez-Rodríguez in Toa Baja while they were executing state arrest warrants. Upon his arrest, he provided the false name of Felix Otero-Torres and did not provide or have in his person any identification documents.
While at the police station, attorney Velilla-Reyes arrived to legally represent Rodríguez-Rodríguez under the false name he had provided. Velilla-Reyes stood by while the charges against his client where brought forth under the false name. He then appeared in court during the local probable cause proceedings and falsely represented to the court that his client Felix Otero-Torres could not recall his social security number or his full address. Velilla-Reyes requested that bail be set without electronic monitoring and told the court he would continue to represent his client throughout all the proceedings. He also assured his client’s fulfillment of pre-trial release conditions and his appearance in court. Rodríguez-Rodríguez, who was affirmatively identified during the days that followed, did not show up to the police station for booking and did not return to any court proceeding. Velilla-Reyes continued as the attorney in record, but failed to appear in any of the subsequent court hearings. To this day Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rodríguez is still a fugitive.
“Our efforts to eradicate corruption in the judicial system of Puerto Rico will include investigations and prosecutions such as this one. The actions committed by this attorney and his effort to conceal a federal fugitive from arrest through illegal conduct, undermine the public’s trust in the judicial system, which is a cornerstone to our democracy.” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
“Acts like the ones alleged to have been committed by Attorney Lemuel Velilla, in this indictment, undermine the credibility of the judicial system and violates the trust and expectation of the residents of Puerto Rico.” said Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI. “The FBI is fully committed to identify and investigate corruption at all levels.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Myriam Y. Fernández and Jenifer Y. Hernández, Deputy Chiefs of the Narcotics Unit, are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted the defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years or a fine of no more than $250,000.00, or both for count Title 18, United State Code, Section 1071. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.