The FBI has now brought a total of 32 charges against six current or former Puerto Rican officials for corruption and misuse of funds from the United States taxpayers.
Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s former education secretary and her five co-conspirators are accused of directing $13 million dollars to unqualified contractors with strong political ties. Keleher has come under scrutiny when she closed 400 schools on the island in order to save money.
Neil Sanchez, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General’s Southern Region said:
“It was alleged that the defendants engaged in a public corruption campaign and profited at the expense of the Puerto Rican citizens and students. This type of corruption is particularly egregious because it not only victimizes taxpayers, it victimizes those citizens and students that are in need of educational assistance.”
In addition to Keleher, former Puerto Rico Health InsuranceAdministration head Ángela Ávila-Marrero was arrested and charged with spending $2.5 million in federal funds on similar contractors for political purposes. Neither former official is being accused of benefiting personally. Both Keleher’s and Ávila’s alleged crimes took place between 2017 and 2019.
Keleher resigned from her post in April. Puerto Rico’s Association of Teachers accused her of having “created chaos” after the Puerto Rican government under Keleher’s watch closed 400 of the public schools on the island to save money.
In June, Dougless Leff, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s San Juan Field Office, told Radio Isla that the FBI was conducting a probe into accusations of favoritism and corruption related to government contracts. He said it that it was possible that this would lead to some arrests, but declined to give specifics.
This came only days after the forced resignation of Puerto Rican Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado, who had talked in a radio interview about an “institutional mafia” of corruption in the Puerto Rican government.