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Venezuelan banker Julio Herrera Velutini turned himself into the FBI in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to face charges of alleged bribery that could throw him in jail.
His case is part of a scandal that rocked Puerto Rico following the arrest of former governor Wanda Vázquez Garced for irregularities in financing her 2020 political campaign. Although the former governor pleaded not guilty in court, her case involves high-ranking officials on the island. A political consultant to the former governor and the president of Bancrédito International Bank have already pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme.
Julio Herrera Velutini turned himself in after former FBI agent Mark Rossini surrendered to authorities on August 9, also claiming his innocence.
U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow, explained in a press conference that the former governor, Herrera, and Rossini could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.
According to the Federal Grand Jury indictment, the three conspired to get more than $300,000 into Vázquez Garced’s campaign in exchange for her firing the commissioner of the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF, Spanish abbreviation), George Joyner, to stop the audit that had detected suspicious transactions in Herrera Velutini’s accounts at Bancrédito International Bank. The situation has been so serious that this bank decided to cease operations in Puerto Rico.
Recently, Herrera Velutini introduced the three attorneys representing him in the case. According to public motions filed in the case file, one of them is attorney Lilly Ann Sanchez, based in Miami, Florida, having a career record in which she has been part of the defense of Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sexual abuse of a 14-year-old minor.
She is joined by another experienced U.S. lawyer, Michael Zweiback, based in Los Angeles, California, and Sonia Torres Pabón, who will be Herrera Velutini’s attorney in Puerto Rico.
Those involved in the case in Puerto Rico
Mark Rossini: the former FBI agent turned himself in on Tuesday to federal authorities on the island and pleaded not guilty to the charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office told The Associated Press (AP) that Rossini’s attorney contacted the authorities days after former Gov. Wanda Vazquez was arrested.
Rossini is charged with conspiracy, bribery in a federal program, and wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty during a hearing in which the judge authorized him to live in the United States but not in Spain, where he is receiving treatment for cancer. However, the judge indicated that he could travel to Spain to receive treatment for his illness.
Authorities say Rossini provided consulting services to Herrera Velutini when both allegedly promised to financially support Vazquez’s 2020 campaign with more than $300,000.
Rossini was an FBI agent from 1991 to 2008, when he resigned as part of a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to criminally accessing an FBI database for personal purposes.
Julio Herrera Velutini: with dual Venezuelan and Italian citizenship, he was the owner of Bancrédito International Bank, which operated in San Juan.
It is alleged that the former governor accepted the banker’s bribe offer and, in February 2020, took steps to demand the commissioner’s resignation and appoint a former Bancrédito consultant.
According to federal authorities, after Vázquez’s defeat in the primaries, Herrera and Rossini conspired to bribe the winner and current governor, Pedro Pierluisi; however, U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow clarified that the governor was not involved in the scheme.
In March of this year, former Public Housing Administrator John Blakeman and Frances Díaz, general director of Bancrédito, reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges. Blakeman assisted in the former governor’s primary campaign finances.
Sabrina Martín Rondon is a Venezuelan journalist. Her source is politics and economics. She is a specialist in corporate communications and is committed to the task of dismantling the supposed benefits of socialism // Sabrina Martín Rondon es periodista venezolana. Su fuente es la política y economía. Es especialista en comunicaciones corporativas y se ha comprometido con la tarea de desmontar las supuestas bondades del socialismo