Attorney Found Guilty Of Concealing A Fugitive From Arrest, Obstruction Of Justice And Tampering With Judicial Proceedings
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico– Today, after a 20-day trial and two hours of deliberations before U.S. District Court Senior Judge Daniel R. Domínguez, state criminal defense attorney Lemuel Velilla-Reyes was found guilty of one count of concealing a fugitive from arrest, and two counts of mail fraud, one count of endeavoring to obstruct, influence and impede the due administration of justice, and one count of tampering with official proceedings, announced U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Public Corruption Squad.
Velilla-Reyes was indicted on September 16, 2014, for harboring and concealing from detection a person for whose arrest a warrant had been issued under the provisions of a law of the United States on a charge of felony. He was later indicted, along with Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rodríguez on July 9, 2015, on charges of mail fraud, endeavoring to obstruct, influence and impede the due administration of justice, and tampering with official proceedings.
The facts proven at trial showed that on July 14, 2011, Velilla-Reyes represented federal fugitive Wilfredo Rodríguez- Rodríguez, aka “Fredo”, aka “Cape”, aka “Capellán”, under the false name of “Felix Otero-Torres” on local drug and weapon charges in state court. At that time, Wilfredo Rodríguez-Rodríguez had an outstanding arrest warrant since July 14, 2010, in federal case U.S. v. José Colón-de Jesus, et. al. Crim. No. 10-251 (JAF), where he was listed as the fifth individual in the 110-defendant indictment for participating as a leader in a drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute controlled substances at the Virgilio Dávila, Las Gardenias, Brisas de Bayamón, and Falin Torrech housing projects, and other areas within the Bayamón Municipality. Velilla-Reyes was the attorney for many of the members of the drug trafficking organization which Rodríguez-Rodríguez was a part of, and had legally represented him in a prior criminal state case in 2006.
In the early morning hours of July 14, 2011, Police of Puerto Rico officers arrested Rodríguez-Rodríguez in Toa Baja while they were executing state arrest warrants. Upon his arrest, he provided the false name of Felix Otero-Torres, and did not provide or have on his person any identification documents.
Attorney Velilla-Reyes arrived at the police station to provide legal representation for Rodríguez-Rodríguez under the false name he had provided. Velilla-Reyes stood by while the charges against his client where filed under the false name. He then appeared in court during the probable cause proceedings and falsely represented to the court that his client Felix Otero-Torres could not recall his social security number or his full address. Velilla-Reyes requested that bail be set without electronic monitoring and told the court he would continue to represent his client throughout all the proceedings. He also vouched for his client’s fulfillment of pre-trial release conditions and his appearance in court. Rodríguez-Rodríguez, who was affirmatively identified during the days that followed, did not show up at the police station for booking and did not return to any court proceeding. Velilla-Reyes continued as the attorney of record, but failed to appear in any of the subsequent court hearings. As a consequence of the above actions, the bond was ordered confiscated and the bond company had to pay $24,000.
“Our efforts to eradicate corruption in Puerto Rico’s judicial system will include investigations and prosecutions such as this one. The actions committed by this attorney and his effort to conceal a federal fugitive from arrest through illegal conduct, undermined the public’s trust in the judicial system, which is a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
“As the evidence in this case demonstrated, this defendant abused his status as a trusted officer of the court to corrupt the judicial system, and in doing so, endangered the public by setting a fugitive free,” said Douglas Leff, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI. “The FBI thanks its partners at the US Attorney's Office for their diligence in obtaining this conviction.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenifer Y. Hernández, Senior Litigation Counsel José Ruiz Santiago and Victor O. Acevedo-Hernández were in charge of the prosecution of the case. The sentencing was scheduled for February 9, 2017; and the defendant faces a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.