Seven people, including two former Puerto Rico government officials, were indicted Wednesday in two related corruption cases affecting more than $10 million.
At the heart of the case is alleged illegal activity of the former Secretary of the Department of Sports and Recreation Ramón Orta Rodríguez, who led the department January 2013 to December 2016. He, his special assistant Edgardo Vazquez Morales, and four other individuals are charged with participating in a conspiracy to steal federal funds involving fraudulently obtained contracts from the Puerto Rico Department of Education and the Puerto Rico Public Housing Authority, according to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico.
The government also charged Orta Rodríguez and Vázquez Morales with soliciting and receiving multiple kickback payments from a seventh defendant related to a Sports and Recreation Department lease of a facility in Guayama, P.R.
Corruption has been a factor in Puerto Rico government’s slide into fiscal crisis and non-payment of debt.
“As Secretary of the [Sports and Recreation Department], Orta was entrusted with performing his duties honestly and ethically,” Rodríguez Vélez said. “The charged offenses are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.
“Public corruption continues to erode the trust between government officials and our citizens,” she said. “Defendant Ramón Orta, along with his coconspirators, exploited his government position to rob Puerto Rican taxpayers of more than $10 million.”
If found guilty, the defendants face possible sentences of up to 10 years for conspiracy, theft of government funds, and bribery, and up to 20 years for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Additional defendants are: Oscar Rodríguez Torres, president of Rosso Group; Miguel Sosa Suárez, owner of Global Sports Initiatives; Irving Riquel Torres Rodríguez, president of Administrative, Environmental and Sports Consultants Corp; Cecilia Amador López, wife of Torres Rodríguez; and Juan Carlos Ortiz Nieves, owner of Sports Consultants.
The investigation is being handled by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Dept. of Education with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General of the United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.