PR Feds lead corruption convictions in ’11
U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez and her team secured 130 public corruption convictions in 2011, more than double the number in the second-highest office (Maryland, 58).
Puerto Rico’s numbers were driven by the resolution of cases against dozens of dirty police officers accused of aiding drug traffickers who were arrested in 2010 in the largest anti-corruption probe in the history of the FBI.
Still, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico has gotten 396 public corruption convictions over the past decade, second only to New Jersey (429) since 2002. New Jersey’s numbers were pushed higher by Operation Bid Rig in 2009, which landed some two dozen state politicians behind bars. The Central District of California was third (375).
“Corruption at any level of government offends the ideals upon which our democracy is built,” Rodríguez said in a statement. “We cannot allow self-dealing by elected officials to go unpunished. As part of the priorities of the Department of Justice, it is our duty to pursue corrupt behavior which diminishes public trust. When that trust is broken, it is the Department of Justice’s responsibility to investigate and prosecute, bringing those who corrupt the system to justice.”
The Justice Department Public Integrity Division’s report to Congress for 2011 highlights the convictions of former New Progressive Party Sen. Héctor Martínez and businessman Juan Bravo in Puerto Rico.
In March 2011, a federal jury found Martínez guilty on bribery and conspiracy counts after Bravo in 2005 gave the lawmaker an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas and boxing tickets in exchange for the passage of two bills that would have benefited the businessman financially.
Martínez and Bravo, the former head of Ranger American, one of the island’s largest security companies, were sentenced to serve four years behind bars.
Nationwide, federal prosecutors secured 1,107 public corruption convictions in 2011, the third most in the past two decades behind 1993 (1,362) and 2008 (1,129).
The Northern District of Iowa had the least public corruption convictions in the last decade with eight.
Last year, the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico extended Rodríguez’s interim appointment for as much as four more years. The order by Chief U.S. District Judge Aida Delgado was backed by all of her fellow federal judges on the court.
Rodríguez was first nominated to the post by President George W. Bush. Her nomination was approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, but has yet to be taken up by the full chamber after an unidentified senator placed a ‘hold’ on her nomination. The move came as federal authorities prosecuted then Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá on corruption charges that he ultimately beat at trial. Ten of his co-defendants pleaded guilty in the campaign finance case.
Prior to the end of her 120-day appointment by the U.S. attorney general as acting U.S. attorney, then U.S. Chief District Judge José A. Fusté extended her appointment for four years, which ended in October.
The four-year extension ordered by Delgado can only be cut short if Rodríguez’s nomination is voted down by the Senate, or if President Barack Obama appoints another person to the post.