Attorney Charged With Forgery Of Federal Bankruptcy Court Orders, Wire Fraud And Obstruction Of Justice
SAN JUAN, P.R. – A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a ten- count indictment against attorney Luis R. Santos-Baez, charging him with Forgery of a Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge’s signature, obstruction of justice and wire fraud, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. Santos-Baez was arrested earlier today by agents from Homeland Security Investigations.
The indictment alleges that Luis R. Santos-Baez forged and concurred in the use of a purported legal documents bearing the false signatures of Hon. Mildred Caban-Flores and Hon. Edward A. Godoy, both Judges of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico, for the purpose of authenticating said documents for the bankruptcy proceedings, to wit: documents that appeared to be court orders signed by the Honorable Judges, had in fact never been entered by the bankruptcy court nor signed by any judge.
The indictment also alleges that the defendant unlawfully enriched himself by obtaining money and property from individuals under the false and fraudulent pretenses and representations that defendant had filed on their behalf, bankruptcy petitions under the United States Bankruptcy Code. During the course of the scheme, Santos-Baez filed on behalf of Debtor #1, Debtor #2 and Debtor #3, various bankruptcy petitions in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Santos Baez received payments from the debtors for filing and attorney’s fees. However, the bankruptcy petitions filed by Santos-Baez were later dismissed by the Court for failure to pay the corresponding filing fees and/or failure to provide required information to the Court. Furthermore, Santos-Baez made a series of false and fraudulent statements and representations to convince the debtors that he was working on their cases, and that they were under bankruptcy protection, when in fact their cases had been dismissed. Defendant Santos-Baez also sent e-mail communications attaching fraudulent court documents purportedly filed in the debtors’ bankruptcy cases and signed by United States Bankruptcy Court Judges, when in fact these documents were not signed by, or consented to by the Judges.
In order to carry out the objects of the scheme and artifice to defraud, Santos-Baez sent e-mail communications in furtherance of the scheme to defraud. In these communications Santos-Baez made a series of false statements and provided false documents in order to induce his clients into believing that they were under bankruptcy protection, when in fact their cases had been dismissed. The defendant knew the signatures and the orders provided in these wire communications were fraudulent and false.
“Today’s arrest demonstrates our commitment to prosecute those who maliciously seek to enrich themselves at the expense of vulnerable victims who have sought the protection and relief under our bankruptcy laws.” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
“This man took advantage of people who deposited their trust in his profession and alleged expertise with the sole intent to line his own pockets,” said Ricardo Mayoral, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI's special agents are constantly vigilant against those who attempt to feed off the vulnerable and will continue to pursue those who think they can game the system.”
“I am grateful to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations for joining the U.S. Trustee Program’s efforts to combat bankruptcy fraud and abuse,” stated Guy G. Gebhardt, Acting U.S. Trustee for Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Region 21). The U.S. Trustee Program is the component of the U.S. Department of Justice that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Olga Castellón is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendant faces a sentence of up to twenty-nine years of imprisonment. Criminal indictments are only charges and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.