WASHINGTON - Jorge De Castro Font, 45, a senator in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, was indicted today by a grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico for engaging in a scheme that deprived the people of Puerto Rico of his honest services, a conspiracy to commit extortion through fear of economic harm and under color of official right, numerous acts of bribery and two money laundering conspiracies, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez announced.
Alberto Goachet, 67, a political consultant and aide to De Castro Font, also was charged in the honest services scheme and one of the money laundering conspiracies. In addition, Goachet was charged with one count of making false statements to the FBI in the course of their investigation of these alleged crimes.
The 32-count indictment charges that, beginning when he was a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and throughout his tenure as a senator, De Castro Font requested various types of illegal payments from numerous Puerto Rican and foreign business persons and lobbyists with business interests before the Puerto Rico Senate or government, in exchange for his official acts and in order to prevent his acting against their interests. For example, the indictment alleges that De Castro Font requested several persons to provide him with monthly cash payments that he used to pay a variety of personal bills, including his home utilities, department store credit cards, an ongoing lottery broker account and other personal expenses. In other instances he allegedly had business persons pay his media campaign expenses through a scheme in which media companies provided false invoices pretending to be for bona fide services to the payers. In reality, the indictment alleges that the false invoices were meant to conceal the third party payments of De Castro Font’s media campaign expenses.
The indictment also alleges various instances in which some business people attempted to stop paying De Castro Font or were late with their illegal payments and, in response, De Castro Font allegedly instructed an assistant or a political operative to send explicit or implicit messages that there would be a price to pay for failing to support De Castro Font financially.
In numerous instances, according to the indictment, De Castro Font made the illegal payment requests either personally or through intermediaries at the same time as, or within days of, discussing his official assistance or consideration on specific legislative matters that affected the business interests of the people. For example, the indictment alleges that De Castro Font requested that one business person with interests before the Puerto Rico Senate pay half of De Castro Font’s sister’s salary at an advertising firm, while at the same time De Castro Font was preventing a vote on a bill that would have harmed the business interests of that person.
During the course of his tenure in the Puerto Rican Senate, De Castro Font allegedly received approximately $500,000 to $525,000 in cash and bill payments from the extortionate scheme. The indictment alleges that De Castro Font concealed the payments by never accurately disclosing the payments involved in the various schemes, either by not disclosing them at all or by falsely disclosing payments, on any required ethics or campaign disclosure forms or on his Puerto Rico tax filings.
The indictment also alleges that in August 2008, Goachet was asked by the FBI about one of the money laundering schemes in which a business person was requested to provide cash to De Castro Font through the use of fake invoices to the business person’s company from a company owned by Goachet, in exchange for De Castro Font’s official acts. According to the indictment, Goachet falsely claimed to the FBI that the invoices were legitimate invoices for services rendered to the business person and denied that the money was intended eventually for De Castro Font, when in fact Goachet allegedly knew the invoices were fraudulent and the money was intended for De Castro Font.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
If convicted of the charged counts, the defendants could face up to the following maximum sentences: honest services wire fraud, 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; extortion, 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; receipt of a bribe, 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; money laundering, 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine; making false statements, five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Novas and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ernesto Lopez Soltero and Timothy R. Henwood of the District of Puerto Rico, as well as Daniel A. Schwager, Ethan H. Levisohn and Peter M. Koski of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The Public Integrity Section is headed by Chief William M. Welch II. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.