Former Puerto Rico mayor pleads guilty to bribe

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A former mayor of Humacao, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty today to engaging in a bribery scheme in which he received cash payments for awarding municipal contracts to two companies.

According to court documents, from January to July 2021, Reinaldo Vargas-Rodriguez, 49, was involved in a bribery conspiracy in which he accepted thousands of dollars in cash bribes from the owner of a construction company and the owner of a trash collection company. In exchange, Vargas-Rodriguez agreed to secure contracts for both companies.

Vargas-Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 14 and 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, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph González of the FBI San Juan Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI San Juan Field Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Nicholas Cannon of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Erbe for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case. Trial Attorney Ryan R. Crosswell of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott H. Anderson for the District of Puerto Rico assisted in the investigation.  

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 matter, 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 for soliciting and accepting bribes related to municipal contracts.

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