Mayor of Cataño Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes in Exchange for Millions in Municipal Contracts and Contractor Arrested for Paying Bribes
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – A mayor pleaded guilty yesterday in Puerto Rico on a criminal charge related to his involvement in a bribery conspiracy in which he received weekly cash payments in exchange for awarding municipal contracts to “Company A.” In a separate indictment, a businessman was arrested today on criminal charges related to his alleged involvement in a scheme to bribe the mayor.
Félix Delgado-Montalvo, 40, was the mayor and highest-ranking government official in the municipality of Cataño. According to court documents, Delgado-Montalvo unjustly enriched himself by accepting things of value, including cash payments, from “Person A,” whose business, Company A, would then benefit by being awarded municipal contracts.
Delgado-Montalvo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 8, 2022, and faces a maximum penalty 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.
A separate indictment returned yesterday, alleges that beginning in or around June of 2017, Mario Villegas-Vargas, 42, of Gurabo, who owned an asphalt and paving company in Puerto Rico with “Individual B,” paid kickbacks and bribes to Delgado-Montalvo. In exchange for those payments, Delgado-Montalvo exerted his influence on municipal officials in Cataño to ensure that Villegas-Vargas’s business was awarded municipal contracts. The indictment alleges that Villegas-Vargas’s bribe payments and his efforts to conceal those payments resulted in his business being awarded over $9.9 million in municipal contracts in Cataño.
Villegas-Vargas is charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of federal program bribery, and one count of use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. If convicted, Villegas-Vargas faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
“These investigations are not over,” said W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Today’s announcement makes clear that the citizens of the District of Puerto Rico expect their public officials to act with honesty and integrity, and not for personal gain. I would like to thank the dedicated efforts and support of the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section in these cases.”
“Public corruption takes resources away from those who need it most and into the pockets of those who are sworn to serve the people. This behavior hurts the people’s trust in our institutions and undermines the work of honest officials who genuinely want to make a difference,” said Joseph González, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Puerto Rico. “This is why we will not allow this kind of behavior to go unpunished. There is still much work to be done and I want to thank our local partners for their assistance in this case and continued support of the FBI mission.”
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Gonzalez of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office made the announcement.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Scott H. Anderson and Nicholas W. Cannon of United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Trial Attorney Ryan R. Crosswell of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, are prosecuting the cases.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.