Super PAC and its President Plead Guilty to Dark Money Scheme to File False Reports with the FEC
A Super PAC and its president pleaded guilty today to scheming to lie to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about the true identities of donors.
According to court documents, Joseph Fuentes-Fernandez, 62, of Arlington, Virginia, and the Super PAC for which he served as president and treasurer, Salvemos a Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty today before U.S District Judge Joseph N. Laplante to one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts.
According to the admissions made in connection with their pleas, Fuentes was the president and treasurer of Salvemos a Puerto Rico, which was organized to raise funds to support the 2020 election campaign of Public Official-1, then a candidate for office in the executive branch of the government of Puerto Rico. Soon after Salvemos a Puerto Rico was organized, Fuentes and others also formed two shell § 501(c)(4) nonprofit social welfare organizations. These two § 501(c)(4) entities were registered within seven minutes of each other, listed the same mailing address, and shared some of the same officers.
Fuentes and others solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations to the two shell nonprofit entities, which rapidly sent most of those funds on to Salvemos a Puerto Rico. Fuentes and Salvemos a Puerto Rico then reported to the FEC that the nonprofit organizations were the donors of those funds, rather than reporting the true source of the funds. The purpose of routing these donor funds through the nonprofit organizations was exclusively to conceal the true identities of the donors to Salvemos a Puerto Rico. For example, in October 2020, Fuentes sent this text message to a potential donor: “You can use a third party to not disclose the true donor.” By ensuring that many of the true donors to Salvemos a Puerto Rico remained anonymous, Fuentes and Salvemos a Puerto Rico deprived the people of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the FEC of information about the true source of hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing into the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s political system.
In connection with its plea, Salvemos a Puerto Rico has agreed to pay a fine of $150,000 and file amended Reports and Receipts and Disbursements with the FEC containing the true identity of all donors to Salvemos a Puerto Rico from 2020 to the present.
Fuentes and Salvemos a Puerto Rico are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug.15. Fuentes faces a maximum of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph González of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI’s San Juan Field Office is investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Jonathan E. Jacobson of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth A. Erbe for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.