The attorney of Natalie Enid González Rodríguez, accused of fraud in the Puerto Rico Lottery, announced yesterday - during a hearing before judge Bruce McGiverin - that he will invoke the double jeopardy clause in federal court.
Although González Rodríguez has pled "not guilty" on charges of conspiracy to
“Obtained and procured funds belonging to the PR Lottery by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises,” her lawyer Emilio Soler maintained that the defendant was already sentenced by a state court for the crimes now addressed at federal level.
"She has a double jeopardy defense," said Soler, who also represented González Rodríguez in state court.
González Rodríguez's past was discussed briefly during the hearing, after the federal prosecutor's office opposed the granting of bail.
Prosecutor Dennise Longo, who is in charge of the case, said that "there are no conditions that guarantee the safety of the community," and that the defendant "has shown her willingness not to follow the law."
Regarding this, she said that in the past she had been prosecuted for "similar conduct", but not for the same facts for which she was prosecuted at the state level.
At the state level, she was accused of document forgery, to which she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation; that expires in 2020.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor said that since during the investigation they tried to contact her, she was aware of the investigation.
Despite this, the prosecutor said that in 2018, the defendant called the co-conspirators who had been summoned to the Grand Jury and asked them not to attend … engaging in obstruction of justice.
And added that González Rodríguez has proved not to comply with court orders.
Meanwhile, the defense attorney argued that she deserves to be released on bail because the charges are the same for which she was already prosecuted at state level, and said she has complied with the conditions imposed by the court.
Soler said the defense will also include the conspiracy accusation since the checks alleged in the federal case were not cashed by González Rodríguez but by other people.
He also stressed before the judge that the defendant has four teenage daughters and one adult.
The prosecutor replied that the defendant went as far as to recruit the eldest daughter to be part of the alleged conspiracy.
The federal judge reserved for himself the decision on the request for release on bail, so he will announce it later.
González Rodríguez is the main accused among 22 people indicted for bank fraud.
The U.S. Secret Service was in charge of the investigation.
They face a 37-count indictment of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 substantive counts of bank fraud, and 16 counts of aggravated identity theft
They are accused of having stolen $ 560,640.43 belonging to the Lottery of Puerto Rico, between October 2015 and March 2016.
According to the authorities, González Rodríguez “produced or procured fraudulent checks using the names and addresses of unsuspecting business concerns operating in Puerto Rico as apparent issuers of the checks ((the “Fake Employers”) specifying the routing and account number for the PR Lottery’s bank account.”
And they add that the false checks were issued payable to González Rodríguez and the other defendants.
The indictment indicates that González Rodríguez was responsible for printing or producing the checks to make them look like salary disbursements and payments for professional services.
It also states that “the co-conspirators would take the false checks to multiple discount stores to negotiate them in exchange for cash or to use them to buy consumer products.”
The authorities maintain that the co-conspirators would “return the proceeds of the scheme to Natalie Enid González-Rodríguez, who would then give them a portion of those proceeds.”