The former mayor of the municipality of Humacao, Puerto Rico, was sentenced Tuesday to three years and one month in prison for his involvement in a bribery scheme in which prosecutors said he received cash payments for awarding municipal contracts to two companies.
According to court documents, from 2021 until 2022, Reinaldo Vargas-Rodriguez, 49, was the mayor and highest-ranking government official in the municipality of Humacao.
Starting in 2021, Vargas-Rodriguez was involved in a bribery conspiracy in which he received and accepted cash payments from two businessmen in exchange for awarding municipal contracts for waste disposal services, asphalt and paving services and debris removal and paying outstanding invoices on the contracts, the Justice Department said.
Vargas-Rodriguez received at least $27,000 in cash bribes from January 2021 through July 2021 from the two businessmen.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph Gonzalez of the FBI San Juan Field Office announced his sentence Tuesday.
In addition to the allegations against Vargas-Rodriguez, the Public Integrity Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico have recently obtained convictions against other former public officials and contractors in the District of Puerto Rico for soliciting and accepting bribes related to municipal contracts, the DOJ said.
In March, Ángel Pérez Otero, the former mayor of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and president of Puerto Rico’s Mayors’ Federation, was convicted by a federal grand jury of conspiracy, federal program bribery and extortion.
Otero had been accused of accepting almost monthly payments of $5,000 for nearly two years in exchange for securing a more than $1 million road work contract for a local company.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office submitted pictures and video of Pérez accepting cash payments inside a car and under a restaurant table that were taken by the company’s owner, who was cooperating with federal authorities.
The Associated Press reported that Pérez was the 10th Puerto Rico mayor to be accused of corruption in the past couple of years, and the third in the case involving the road work.
Former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez was arrested in August 2022 on bribery charges linked to the financing of her 2020 campaign.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.