Jury convicts Puerto Rico mayor of hurricane relief fraud
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A Puerto Rican mayor was convicted of
bribery and conspiracy Thursday in a $2.5 million kickback scheme that
targeted a U.S. company cleaning up debris from Hurricane Georges.
Angel Rodriguez, mayor of the northern town of Toa Alta, and contractor
Jose Orlando Figueroa, also convicted Thursday, are to be sentenced June
The bribery charge carries a maximum 10-year sentence, and the conspiracy
count up to five years.
A federal jury in San Juan acquitted both men of extortion.
Prosecutors said Rodriguez and Orlando demanded $2.5 million from
Mississippi-based JESCO in exchange for a contract to collect debris after
Hurricane Georges swept over the island Sept. 21.
Exaggerated damage reports were submitted to the Federal Emergency
Management Agency in order to get more disaster funds for Toa Alta,
Rodriguez also was accused of paying Orlando $20,000 in federal relief
funds to act as an intermediary between the mayor and the U.S.
Both men denied the charges, and defense attorney Luis Plaza said today
they were considering an appeal.
"It was the will of God," Rodriguez said after the verdict. He refused
whether he would resign as mayor of Toa Alta, a city of about 30,000
Orlando declined to comment.
FBI agents arrested Rodriguez and Orlando on Nov. 24. The two remain
free on bail pending sentencing.