Former Puerto Rico governor arrested in connection with alleged bribery scheme

Alleged scheme in connection to financing then-mayor's 2020 reelection campaign, feds say

Updated: August 5, 2022 - 7:57am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

 A former governor of Puerto Rico has been arrested on bribery charges in connection to the financing of her 2020 campaign – in a wide-ranging federal investigation that also has resulted in guilty pleas from the ex-elected official’s political consultant and the president of the international bank, according to the Justice Department.

Wanda Vazquez Garced, 62, allegedly engaged in the bribery scheme with five other people to finance her gubernatorial election campaign, according to the indictment announced Thursday.

The alleged scheme was carried out from December 2019 through June 2020, while Garced was governor, and allegedly involved her trying to remove a high-ranking government official in exchange for over $300,000 to help her campaign.

"The alleged bribery scheme rose to the highest levels of the Puerto Rican government, threatening public trust in our electoral processes and institutions of governance," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the department’s Criminal Division.

Federal prosecutors have identified the consultant and bank president who pleaded guilty, respectively, as John Blakeman and Frances Díaz.

Also allegedly involved in the scheme were Julio Martin Herrera Velutini and former FBI agent Mark Rossini.

In early 2019, the bank owned by Velutini was being scrutinized by Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions because of transactions authorities believed were suspicious and had not been reported by the bank.

Authorities said Herrera and Rossini allegedly promised to financially support Garced’s campaign in exchange for her dismissing the commissioner and appointing a new one of Herrera’s choosing, according to the Associated Press.