Corruption charges in Puerto Rico
Victor Fajardo, who served as the U.S. territory's education secretary
from 1996 to
2000, was arrested early Wednesday, as were nine others, prosecutors said.
Warrants had been issued for the arrest of the remaining six.
Among those arrested were Richard D'Acosta, president of Puerto Rico's
of Commerce, and Jose Omar Cruz, a former deputy education secretary under
Fajardo, said Acting U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil Bonar.
Gil estimated the amount of U.S. funds diverted to Puerto Rican election
at more than $4 million, and said officials at the pro-statehood New Progressive
Party, in power at the time, had been involved.
Much of the money was supposed to go toward computers and computer training
for teachers, prosecutors said.
Lawyers for the accused were not immediately available for comment.
The list of those charged in indictments handed down by a federal grand
Tuesday includes other lower-level public officials. Many of the accused are
businesspeople who allegedly had contracts with the Caribbean island's Department
One of them is Fajardo's sister-in-law, Maria Ramos Matos, who allegedly
contracts with Fajardo's department.
Also among those facing federal charges is schools consultant Jesus Emilio
Class, who allegedly was involved in giving Fajardo more than $750,000 in bribes.
Rivera Class, who was arrested in Miami on Wednesday, was cooperating with
investigators and providing information in return for immunity from charges in
Puerto Rican courts, prosecutors said.
The case is the latest in a string of government corruption scandals in Puerto Ric o.
Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos, deputy chief of staff to then-Gov. Pedro Rossello
the mid-1990s, was arrested in December on two counts of conspiracy to interfere
with commerce by extortion. Ocasio Ramos' lawyer, Daniel Lopez Romo, denied
his client has misused his public office.
Rossello, who supported statehood for the U.S. territory, stepped down
His successor, Gov. Sila Calderon, opposes statehood and was elected in part by
voters who said they were fed up with growing corruption in Rossello's
In Rossello's last year in office, high-ranking administrators were convicted
stealing $2.2 million meant for AIDS patients. The scandal rocked the government
and forced Rossello to take the stand to deny allegations that he accepted part of
Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.