SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico– Julia Beatrice Keleher, former Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Education (“PR DOE”), and Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez have been indicted for their participation in a bribery scheme and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, announced U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico W. Stephen Muldrow. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is in charge of the investigation.
The indictment returned yesterday, January 14, 2020, by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico, includes nine counts as follows: Count One: Julia Keleher and Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez - Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; Counts Two through Seven: Julia Keleher and Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez - Wire Fraud, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; Count Eight: Julia Keleher - Federal Program Bribery (accepting a bribe), Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(1)(B); and Count Nine: Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez - Federal Program Bribery (paying a bribe), Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(2).
The indictment alleges that the purpose of the conspiracy was for Keleher to use her official position as the Secretary of Education to enrich herself by soliciting and accepting things of value from others, and for others to enrich themselves by obtaining favorable official action from Keleher through corrupt means. Defendant Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez facilitated Keleher’s receipt of financial benefits in connection with her lease and purchase of an apartment in the Ciudadela apartment complex in Santurce, Puerto Rico, in exchange for Keleher’s signing a letter purporting to give 1,034 square feet of the Padre Rufo School to a private company.
“Public corruption continues to erode the trust between government officials and our citizens. Defendant Keleher exploited her government position to benefit herself and other private individuals,” said U.S. Attorney Muldrow. “Government officials are entrusted with performing their duties honestly and ethically. When they fail to do so, they will be held to account.”
“Anyone involved in the bribery of a public official seeks to put their own interests above those of the People of Puerto Rico. However, those corrupt parties will eventually pay a much higher price to the criminal justice system, and we will continue to deliver them to the federal courthouse. This has been our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico and one we intend to keep in the years to come,” said Douglas A. Leff, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel José Capó-Iriarte and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Alum. If found guilty, the defendants are facing possible sentences of up to 10 years for conspiracy and federal program bribery, and up to 20 years for wire fraud. The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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