Coral Gables Resident Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison for Wire Fraud in Connection with Hurricane Relief Efforts for Puerto Rico
Emilio I. Vazquez, 47, of Coral Gables, Florida, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. to 120 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, for wire fraud in connection with hurricane relief efforts for Puerto Rico. Vazquez was also ordered to pay $1,514,225.55 in restitution to the victims.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Brian Swain, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
According to the court record, 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 in the amount of $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. 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, pursuant to a criminal complaint, Vazquez was arrested in Brooklyn, New York.
On April 17, 2018, Vazquez pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.
Mr. Greenberg commends the investigative efforts of the USSS and FBI. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joshua S. Rothstein.