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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Coral Gables Resident Charged with Wire Fraud in Connection with Hurricane Relief Efforts for Puerto Rico

Emilio I. Vazquez, of Coral Gables, was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with wire fraud in connection with hurricane relief efforts to Puerto Rico. 

 

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Brian Swain, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), made the announcement. 

 

            According to the allegations contained in the criminal complaint, in or around September 2017, Vazquez contacted a group of volunteers working to provide hurricane relief aid to Puerto Rico.  Vazquez claimed that he was part of the Serralles family, who are the owners of Destileria Serralles, which distills, manufactures, bottles and distributes Don Q rum in Puerto Rico. Vazquez claimed to have significant resources and the ability to rent warehouses, and charter planes and trucks to transport relief supplies.

 

According to the complaint, in or around September 2017, Vazquez, using the name Emilio Serralles, contacted Commercial Property Group in Doral, Florida, regarding the rental of warehouse space.  The warehouse space was purportedly to be used to store relief supplies for Puerto Rico.  On or about September 29, 2017, Vazquez provided Commercial Property Group with a counterfeit and fraudulent UBS bank cashier’s check in the amount of $122,050.50, to pay for the warehouse space. It is alleged that the next day, Vazquez signed a lease under the name Emilio Serralles, renting five warehouse spaces from Commercial Property Group. 

 

According to the complaint, in or around October 2017, Vazquez contacted Miami Air International, a local charter airline.  Vazquez again identified himself as Emilio Serralles and claimed to own a company called Puerto Rico Relief Committee.  Subsequently, Vazquez chartered multiple flights from Miami to Puerto Rico to purportedly deliver relief supplies.  As payment for these flights, Vazquez provided a counterfeit and fraudulent American Express Centurion Bank cashier’s check in the amount of $564,036.05 to Miami Air International, which was rejected as fraudulent by U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private wealth management.

 

On January 23, 2017, a New York City Police Department officer arrested Vazquez in Brooklyn, New York.  He is scheduled to make his initial appearance on Thursday, January 25, 2018, at 2 p.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky, of the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, New York. 

 

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the USSS.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joshua S. Rothstein. 

 

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

 

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida atwww.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Updated January 24, 2018