SAN JUAN, P.R. (UPI) —
The Department of Justice has indicted Maria Milagros Charbonier-Laureano, a member of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, her family and one of her associates for running a years-long scheme of theft, bribery and kickbacks to defraud the Commonwealth.
In a 13-count indictment
returned Monday, a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico charged Charbonier-Laureano; her husband, Orlando Montes-Rivera; their son, Orlando Gabriel Montes-Charbonier; and her assistant, Frances Acevedo-Ceballos, in the conspiracy.
“When elected officials betray the people’s trust in order to enrich themselves at the public’s expense, the Justice Department will hold them accountable,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement
According to the complaint, the conspiracy ran from early 2017 through to July during which time Charbonier is accused of inflating Acevedo’s salary at least twice in an agreement that she, her husband and son would receive a kickback of between $1,000 and $1,500 from every paycheck.
The complaint states that Acevedo was paid $800 semi-weekly from 2014 to early 2017 when Charbonier-Laureano increased her paycheck to $2,100. It was again increased to $2,900 in September, prosecutors said.
Acevedo would keep a portion of the increase and deliver the kickback to Charbonier-Laureano and her family members by hand, through an intermediary and in increments through a smartphone application, among other methods, prosecutors said.
“This general pattern of Acevedo receiving a government paycheck, retaining a portion of the paycheck for herself, and then withholding or withdrawing approximately $1,500 in cash to be used as a kickback payment, continued for years,” the complaint said.
U.S. Attorney Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico called on the public for anyone with information of public officials involved in criminal acts to come forward.
“We will continue investigating and prosecuting elected officials whose criminal conduct enriches themselves at the expense of the government and their constituents,” Muldrow said in a statement.
Among the 13 counts, Charbonier-Laureano and her family face several money laundering charges for secretively transferring the stolen funds among themselves while the prominent politician known as Tata also faces charges of obstruction justice as she is accused of attempting to delete certain data from her phone after learning that an investigated had been spearheaded into her conduct.
Reporting by Darryl Coote
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