Former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced was arrested Thursday for allegedly taking bribes from high-profile individuals to help finance her 2020 gubernatorial campaign.
The individuals allegedly involved included Venezuelan-Italian bank owner Julio Martin Herrera Velutini and bank president Frances Díaz, as well as former FBI agent Mark Rossini and political consultant John Blakeman, according to CBS News. (RELATED: DC Police Arrest 3 Climate Activists At Congressional Baseball Game)
Federal prosecutors allege that starting in early 2019, Herrera Velutini and Rossini bribed Vázquez Garced with $300,000 to terminate the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF) commissioner, who was investigating Herrera Velutini’s bank, the outlet reported.
She allegedly accepted the deal and asked the OCIF commissioner to resign in 2020, according to U.S. attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Stephen Muldrow, CBS News reported. Prosecutors further alleged Herrer Velutini picked the next commissioner himself, according to the outlet.
Blakeman and Díaz both pleaded guilty to participation in the alleged bribery scheme and each face up to five years behind bars, according to Department of Justice’s press release.
Former Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez was arrested in the U.S. territory Thursday on corruption charges, an official told The Associated Press. https://t.co/t0IJwM0gaD
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 4, 2022
Vázquez Garced was set to make her first appearance in federal court Thursday in Puerto Rico, CBS News reported. If convicted of the seven charges brought against her, she could face up to 20 years of jail time, the outlet said.
“To my people of Puerto Rico and to everyone, I’m innocent. They’ve committed a huge injustice… I can say that I have not committed any crime,” Vázquez Garced told reporters, according to CBS News.
This marks the first time a former governor has been brought up on federal charges, CNN noted. Vázquez-Garced will reportedly plead not guilty.