SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The FBI on Wednesday arrested Puerto Rico’s former secretary of sports and recreation and six other people accused in a $10 million fraud case involving federal funds.
Most of the suspects are charged with fraudulently obtaining contracts from Puerto Rico’s government, while former Secretary Ramon Orta and his special assistant, Edgardo Vazquez, also are charged with soliciting and receiving multiple kickbacks.
“Orta, along with his co-conspirators, exploited his government position to rob Puerto Rican taxpayers of more than $10 million,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez. “The charged offences are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.”
One of the suspects, Miguel Sosa, previously worked on the campaign of former gubernatorial candidate David Bernier.
Five suspects, including Orta and Vazquez, have pleaded not guilty to charges including stealing federal funds through contracts obtained from Puerto Rico’s Department of Education and Public Housing Authority. One of the contracts awarded was for an education project and another for the production of a TV show about public housing in Puerto Rico.
Authorities said the suspects used the fraudulently obtained federal funds for business ventures, travel and political campaigns, among other things.
The suspects also built a secret underground compartment to hide part of the money generated by the alleged scheme, Rodriguez said.