The U.S. District Attorney's Office has 18,000 pieces of evidence against the two former members of Ricardo Rosselló Nevares' cabinet and four government contractors accused of participating in an alleged $15.5 million fraud.
"The evidence has been presented. We are ready to comply with the schedule," said prosecutor José Capo Iriarte during the first status hearing held yesterday in federal judge Pedro A. Delgado Hernández´courtroom.
Evidence includes search warrants, bank statements, and financial records, which Capo Iriarte said were already available to the defense.
The federal indictment details an alleged fraud scheme to favor government contractors for political reasons, as well as an illegal 10 percent commission by lobbyist Alberto Velázquez Piñol for his influence on the government. Former Education Secretary Julia Keleher, former Health Insurance Administration Director Ángela Ávila Marrero, former government advisor Velázquez Piñol, as well as contractors Fernando Scherrer Caillet and sisters Mayra and Glenda Ponce Mendoza were accused as participants in the alleged schemes.
The judge said the only motion pending, in this case, is in judge Bruce McGiverin's courtroom. It is a motion filed by Scherrer Caillet's defense to lower the bail from $2 million to $30,000 and to loosen travel restrictions to Washington D.C. to meet with his lead attorney, Abbe David Lowell.
On the request to modify his parole, the U.S. Attorney´s office said yesterday that it had no objection to the defense reporting exclusively to the U.S. Probation Office without requiring prior authorization from the prosecutor's office. However, they objected to lowering his bail because Scherrer Caillet "is a wealthy businessman.” They also argued that the former BDO Puerto Rico presidentfaces up to up to 20 years in prison for each charge against him, which represents the risk of leaving the island.
The prosecution anticipated its intentions to use the expressions of attorney Juan Ramón Acevedo Cruz as evidence against Scherrer Caillet since he minimized the accusations in the indictment against his client by alleging that he described "perfectly normal commercial conduct."
Prosecutors Capó Iriarte, Marie Christine Amy, and Alexander Alum said that in his motion, Scherrer seems to admit several allegations in the indictment, while minimizing the extent of his criminal behavior.
On the other hand, Keleher's defense attorney, former federal prosecutor María Dominguez, anticipated that she will soon submit motions that could impact "the composition of the indictment." The six defendants face a joint judicial process, but that could change if the judge orders so, a debate that could arise soon.
The trial is scheduled to begin on May 4, 2020, when defendants will have the right to cross-examine the evidence presented by the prosecution.
The indictment contains a total of 32 counts. The six defendants face charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit a crime, while Scherrer Caillet and Velázquez Piñol also face charges of conspiring to money laundering. Velazquez Piñol faces six money laundering charges.