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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Coral Gables Resident Pled Guilty to Wire Fraud in Connection with Hurricane Relief Efforts for Puerto Rico

            A South Florida resident pleaded guilty yesterday to wire fraud, in connection with purported hurricane relief aid for 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. 

Emilio I. Vazquez, 47, of Coral Gables, Florida, plead guilty to a single count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.  The defendant faces a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.  Vazquez is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27, 2018, at 9:30 a.m., by United States District Court Judge Robert N. Scola.     

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.

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 for $122,050.50, to pay for the warehouse space. The next day, Vazquez signed a lease under the name Emilio Serralles, renting five warehouse spaces from Commercial Property Group. 

In or around October 2017, Vazquez contacted Miami Air International, a local charter airline, 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 for $564,036.05 to Miami Air International.

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

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 April 17, 2018