Pennsylvania Businessman Pleads Guilty and Is Sentenced in Puerto Rico Corruption Case
Dr. Candido Negron Mella pleaded guilty and was sentenced today for his participation in a corruption scheme involving the 2000 Resident Commissioner campaign of a former governor of Puerto Rico. Negron Mella, 42, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. He was sentenced to five months in prison and seven months home detention, and was ordered to pay a $14,000 fine by U.S. District Court Judge Robert F. Kelly in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where the case was transferred from the District of Puerto Rico for plea and sentencing. Former Puerto Rico Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Luisa Inclán Bird, a legal advisor for the San Juan Resident Commissioner office when Acevedo Vilá served as Resident Commissioner, were acquitted on March 20, 2009, of all criminal charges related to the scheme.
According to court documents, Negron Mella was a partner in a company that had a professional relationship with a large Medicaid dental provider in the United States that was interested in obtaining a direct dental agreement with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In order to assist that provider in obtaining a contract in Puerto Rico, Negron Mella, along with a co-conspirator, agreed to raise contributions for the campaign of the then-Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Negron Mella admitted he hoped that contributing to the political campaigns would enable him to obtain access to the government of Puerto Rico to promote his business interests.
According to court documents, Negron Mella learned in 2001 that the Resident Commissioner campaign committee was carrying a $150,000 campaign debt. Negron Mella admitted that he was aware he would not be able to retire the entire campaign debt through legal means due to federal laws limiting individual contributions. Therefore, Negron Mella admitted that he and a co-conspirator agreed to use conduit contributions, and requested that their employees, friend and relatives make contributions to the campaign in exchange for reimbursing those employees, friends and relatives for the full amount of their contributions.
Negron Mella and a co-conspirator contributed approximately $39,000 in conduit contributions to the Resident Commissioner campaign committee in 2003, according to court documents. Negron Mella admitted he directly solicited at least $14,000 of the $39,000 in conduit contributions. Negron Mella also admitted that at the time he and his co-conspirator made the conduit contributions to the campaign committee, he knew that the legal limit for federal campaigns was $2,000. In addition, Negron Mella admitted that when he and his co-conspirator made the conduit contributions to the campaign committee, Negron Mella had already contributed the maximum amount allowed by law to the campaign committee, and that he made these conduit contributions in excess of that legal limit knowing he could no longer contribute to the campaign.
Including Negron Mella’s guilty plea, 10 defendants have pleaded guilty in the corruption investigation in the District of Puerto Rico.
This case was prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney María A. Domínguez and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ernesto López, Timothy Henwood and Jacqueline Novas of the District of Puerto Rico, and Trial Attorneys Peter M. Koski and Ethan H. Levisohn of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Chief William M. Welch, II. The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS, with assistance and cooperation from the Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico.