February 25, 1999

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,
                  prosecutors said.

                  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 to say
                  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.