Puerto Rico Senator Jorge De Castro Font Pleads Guilty to Honest Services Wire Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Extortion
WASHINGTON – Jorge De Castro Font, 45, a former senator in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty today to 20 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez announced.
De Castro Font pleaded guilty to devising and engaging in a scheme that deprived the people of Puerto Rico of his honest services as a legislator, performed free from conflict of interest, concealment and improper influence. De Castro Font also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion through fear of economic harm and under color of official right. De Castro Font was indicted for these and other related offenses on Oct. 2, 2008.
De Castro Font entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Francisco Augusto Besosa in the District of Puerto Rico. De Castro Font admitted that from Jan. 2, 2005, through August 2008, he directly and indirectly solicited between approximately $500,000 and $525,000 in cash payments and other benefits, such as campaign contributions in excess of the legal limits, lodging, private flights, meals and other things of value, from individuals. De Castro Font admitted that he engaged in official acts on behalf of some of these individuals who had provided him with these undisclosed benefits, including but not limited to, proposing legislation, preventing legislative projects to be voted or acted upon, and persuading other legislators to vote for or against legislation.
De Castro Font also admitted to participating in a conspiracy to obtain cash and other benefits from five individuals whom he admitted he knew felt that if they did not provide him with the financial benefits requested, De Castro Font could use his official position to harm their financial interests.
Judge Besosa scheduled a sentencing hearing on Apr. 23, 2009.
"Using an elected office for personal gain denies citizens the honest services of their elected leaders," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin. "The Department will continue to identify and prosecute public officials who corruptly use their position and influence to illegally benefit themselves."
"Senator De Castro Font has accepted responsibility for the acts of public corruption charged in the indictment. His conduct was an affront to the voters of Puerto Rico who placed their trust and confidence in him and the institution that he represented, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. His blatant disregard for his oath of office and his breach of the public trust, for his personal enrichment, violated the very essence of our democratic government. We will continue our public corruption investigations against public officials and those who make illegal payments in exchange for official acts," said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez.
"Let this conviction send a stark message to all public servants that the sale of influence and public corruption will not be tolerated by the FBI or the law-abiding citizens of Puerto Rico," said Luis Fraticelli, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI-San Juan Field Office. "The FBI will continue to be vigilant so as to root out all public corruption. As I have said before, corruption affects every facet of society: the people, honest businessmen, education and public works."
On Dec. 4, 2008, Alberto Goachet, a political consultant and aide to De Castro Font, pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy to launder illegal campaign contributions and other payments. Goachet admitted that he and others laundered the money through the use of fake invoices purporting to reflect legitimate payments to a political consulting firm owned by Goachet. Goachet admitted that the false invoices were meant to conceal a businessman’s illegal payments to De Castro Font. Goachet also admitted that in August 2008 he falsely claimed in an interview with the FBI that the invoices were legitimately written for services rendered to the businessman and denied that the money was intended for De Castro Font.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacqueline Novas and Timothy R. Henwood of the District of Puerto Rico, and Trial Attorney Matthew L. Stennes of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.