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Latino Daily News

Friday March 2, 2012

Former Puerto Rico Senator and Businessman Each Sentenced to 48 Months for Bribery Scheme

Former Puerto Rico Senator and Businessman Each Sentenced to 48 Months for Bribery Scheme

Photo: Former Puerto Rico Senator and Businessman Each Sentenced to 48 Months for Bribery Scheme

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Hector Martinez Maldonado, a former Puerto Rico senator, and Juan Bravo Fernandez, the former president of the largest private security firm in Puerto Rico, were each sentenced today to 48 months in prison for their roles in a bribery scheme involving the passage of legislation beneficial to Bravo Fernandez’s business, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

The defendants were sentenced by Judge Francisco A. Besosa. Judge Besosa also ordered Bravo Fernandez to pay a $175,000 fine and Martinez Maldonado to pay a $17,500 fine.

On March 7, 2011, a jury convicted former Senator Martinez Maldonado, 43, and Bravo Fernandez, 56, of 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 Rico senator, with a first-class, all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas and ringside seats to see a championship boxing match. Specifically, the jury found Martinez Maldonado and Bravo Fernandez guilty of one count of bribery related to federal funds and found Bravo Fernandez guilty of conspiracy related to this criminal scheme.

“Today’s prison sentences reflect that corruption has serious consequences,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Former Senator Martinez and Mr. Fernandez engaged in a scheme to exchange cash and services for legislation favorable to Mr. Fernandez’s business interests. The Justice Department’s Criminal Division is determined to put a stop to such brazenly corrupt conduct wherever we find it.”

“Corruption continues to be a primary threat to the well-being of the people of Puerto Rico. Therefore, the FBI will continue to investigate those elected, and/or appointed public officials, and private citizens engaged in these corrupt schemes that deprive the working citizens of Puerto Rico of an honest, representative government,” said Joseph Campbell, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office. “In Puerto Rico, corruption and democracy cannot co-exist.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Martinez Maldonado was elected to the Puerto Rico Senate in 2004 and began serving a four-year term in January 2005. He was re-elected in 2008. Bravo Fernandez was the president and chief executive officer of Ranger American, the largest private security firm in Puerto Rico. 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 chair 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 chair of the Public Safety Committee, exercising significant control over legislation related to community safety and the private security industry.

As chair of the Public Safety Committee and chair of the Committee on Rules and Calendars, Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font, respectively, 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.

In order to secure passage of the two bills, Bravo Fernandez, Martinez Maldonado, and De Castro Font agreed that Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font would take official acts supporting the legislation benefitting Bravo Fernandez’s business interests in exchange for things of value provided by Bravo Fernandez. Evidence at trial established that Bravo Fernandez agreed to provide Martinez Maldonado and De Castro Font with 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. In addition, from 2004 to 2008, Bravo Fernandez provided numerous cash payments to De Castro Font that were concealed in an envelope and provided through personal assistants.

Evidence at trial established that on March 2, 2005, the day 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. 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. Immediately after the hearing, Martinez Maldonado authorized a committee report in support of Bravo Fernandez’s bill.

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’s bills in front of the full Puerto Rico Senate. On May 18, 2005, the other bill was approved out of the 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 January 21, 2009 to 20 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. He was sentenced on May 17, 2011 to 60 months in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Peter Koski of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI.