By The Star Staff
Two government contractors were sentenced this week for their involvement in separate bribery schemes in which they gave payments to the former mayor of Cataño, in exchange for the mayor’s awarding of municipal contracts to their respective companies.
Mario Villegas Vargas, 44, of Gurabo, was sentenced Wednesday to 46 months in prison for conspiracy to commit federal funds bribery. According to court documents, Villegas Vargas paid kickbacks and bribes in exchange for the mayor exerting his influence on municipal officials in Cataño to ensure that Villegas Vargas’ asphalt and paving business, JR Asphalt, was awarded municipal contracts.
Villegas Vargas’ bribe payments and his efforts to conceal those payments resulted in his business being awarded over $9.9 million in municipal contracts in Cataño. Other public officials in Puerto Rico have already pleaded guilty to receiving bribe payments from JR Asphalt, including the former mayors of Aguas Buenas, Guayama and Trujillo Alto, and the former directors of public works in Guayama and Cataño.
José Bou Santiago, 50, of Bayamón, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for conspiracy to commit federal funds bribery. According to court documents, in April 2019, Bou Santiago provided a Rolex watch to the then-Cataño mayor in exchange for a future municipal contract for Bou Santiago’s company, Bou Maintenance Service.
Specifically, in June 2019, Bou Maintenance Service was awarded a construction contract by the municipality valued at some $190,000. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. 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 González of the FBI San Juan Field Office made the announcement.