Former Senate Government Affairs Office Director Ángel Figueroa Cruz. (GFR Media)

Ángel Figueroa Cruz´s defense attorney filed a motion Monday announcing that former Senate Government Affairs Office Director will plead guilty to corruption charges in the so-called "ghost employees" case.

The hearing for Figueroa Cruz's guilty plea is scheduled today at 1:30 p.m. in Federal Court. The trial was scheduled to begin October 16 in Judge Francisco Besosa´s courtroom.

Figueroa Cruz, represented by attorney Juan Ramón Acevedo, pleaded not guilty on May 30, the same day that former contractor Isoel Sánchez and his partner, Chrystal Robles Báez, were also arrested.

On August 8, Sánchez and Robles Báez pleaded guilty to wire fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and other corruption-related crimes involving contracts between Global Instant Consulting Group -registered by Robles Báez- and the Senate.

Meanwhile, through his company International Legislative and Government Consulting Group, Sánchez -described by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz as his political coordinator in the Humacao area - had contracts in the House, specifically with the office of former representative Samuel Pagán.

Robles Báez and Sánchez´s sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 7.

Prosecutors Timothy Henwood and José Ruiz will reportedly request a return of $34,000 and recommend they both serve four to ten months in prison. The defense requested a probation sentence, to which both defendants may be eligible.

Judge Besosa has the authority to reject the agreement and sentence them to more than 20 years in prison.

In the case of Figueroa Cruz, also represented by Edgar Sánchez, he faces conspiracy charges for “falsely certified as correct, the information contained in the bills/invoices for payment submitted by defendant Robles-Báez as an “Intergovernmental Coordinator,”  while, in fact, she was working in a crepe shop in Humacao. All this between 2016 and June 2018.

No information has been disclosed regarding what, if anything, Figueroa Cruz received to certify Robles Baez's false invoices. Nor was it revealed if he received instructions from any third party to take such action without receiving anything in return.

Figueroa Cruz, a former municipal assembly member in Bayamón, also faces charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The Senate president had been summoned by the prosecution as agovernment witness to testify in the Figueroa Cruz trial.  By then, he had said the case was "weak."

Rivera Schatz reacts

The Senate leader lamented yesterday afternoon that Figueroa Cruz pleaded guilty and, in statements posted on his Facebook page, said he felt sorry for him.

"I feel very sorry for him and his family because his career in public service had always been one of rectitude and decency. He and his lawyer decided that this was the best course of action," Rivera Schatz said.

On several occasions, Rivera Schatz said that the prosecution notified him that he is not the target of any investigation.

It is regrettable that these events, that damage public confidence, happen," Rivera Schatz added.

Both Figueroa Cruz and Robles Baez held positions of trust in the Senate. Rivera Schatz hired a lawyer to conduct audits on the contracts in the Senate but has not disclosed the results of that investigation.

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