Yesterday, Victor M. Ortiz-Díaz a.k.a. “Manolito,” mayor of the municipality of Gurabo, Puerto Rico, was arrested by FBI agents on charges of extortion and soliciting a bribe, announced U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico.
According to the indictment, in or about October 2012, the Municipality of Gurabo owed Company A payments for eight outstanding invoices for work performed in the municipality. Person A, co-owner of Company A, met with mayor Ortiz-Díaz to discuss the outstanding debt. The mayor solicited $125,000 from Person A to invest in a telecommunication antennas project. Because Company A did not have the money to pay the $125,000, the mayor told Person A that he would have the municipality make a payment to the company. With this money, Company A could be able to cover the “loan” to Ortiz-Díaz, as well as pay other debts it owed its suppliers.
On October 19, 2012, Person A issued three post-dated Company A checks payable to three different individuals, who were employees of Miguel Merced. Merced was the individual orchestrating the telecommunications investment scheme in which Ortiz-Diaz invested the three checks totaling $125,000. On that same date, the Municipality of Gurabo issued two checks totaling $196,643.26 payable to Company A for contracting work performed.
Unbeknownst to him, Ortiz-Díaz used the money he extorted from Person A in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme run by Merced, who is now serving a six-year prison sentence.
“Defendant Ortiz-Díaz extorted Person A, to invest in a Ponzi scheme, which resulted in losses to many victims,” said U.S. Attorney Rodríguez-Vélez. “Although he presented himself as a victim in federal court, it was the citizens of Gurabo who were the victims of his corrupt acts, as it was their money he squandered.”
“It is always a sad day when someone who enjoys the trust of the people abuses that trust,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge, Douglas Leff. “It should be clear by now that those officials who have served the public dishonestly will eventually have justice delivered to their doorstep. The FBI will continue to work with its partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that the citizens of Puerto Rico receive the fair and honest government to which they are entitled.”
This case was investigated by the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Olga B. Castellón-Miranda.
If found guilty, the defendant could face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
December 9, 2016