President and Treasurer of Super PAC Sentenced for Dark Money Scheme
WASHINGTON – The president and treasurer of a Super PAC was sentenced today to 14 months in prison for scheming to lie to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about the true identities of donors.
The Super PAC, which was also sentenced today, was ordered to pay a $150,000 fine and to serve three years of probation.
According to the admissions made in connection with their pleas, Joseph Fuentes-Fernández, 62, of Arlington, Virginia, and Salvemos a Puerto Rico, the Super PAC for which he served as president and treasurer, raised 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 further admitted that he and others solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations to the two shell nonprofit entities, which rapidly sent most of those funds to Salvemos a Puerto Rico. Fuentes and Salvemos a Puerto Rico then reported to the FEC that the nonprofit entities 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 entities 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 Puerto Rico’s political system.
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 investigated 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 prosecuted the case.