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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Contractor says he paid kickbacks to ex-Guaynabo mayor

Former Guaynabo mayor Ángel Pérez Otero

By The Star Staff

Businessman Oscar Santamaría Torres acknowledged on Monday that he paid kickbacks to former Guaynabo Mayor Ángel Pérez Otero to obtain and maintain his waste disposal contracts with the city.

Santamaría made the admission during the continuation of the trial against Pérez Otero in U.S. District Court amid accusations of corruption.

“I’m here because I made illegal payments to the former mayor of Guaynabo in exchange for contracts and benefits,” he said during prosecutors’ questioning.

The prosecution has presented to the jury videos and photos in which Santamaría allegedly appears to be discussing the payment of bribes to Pérez Otero or simply handing over the money.

Santamaría, who bribed the mayors of Aguas Buenas, Trujillo Alto, Naguabo and Cataño, first recorded Pérez Otero on May 19, 2021 after he met with federal prosecutors who had notified him that he was under investigation. FBI investigators arranged a video showing Santamaría allegedly giving Pérez Otero an envelope with $5,000 in cash, making the delivery under the table at a cafeteria.

Santamaría indicated that he gave monthly bribes to the former mayor to maintain contracts for his Island Builders company. Supposedly, Pérez Otero intervened illegally to expedite those payments to the company.

In another video encounter, this time inside a vehicle, Santamaría was shown appearing to give another $5,000 in cash to Pérez Otero.

The former mayor’s defense is that the payments were not bribes but rather payments for campaign debts.

“There is nothing new here,” Pérez Otero said as he left the court at noon. “It’s all [what] has come out in the press.”

On at least one occasion, the digital evidence shows Santamaría saying that they had him “hanged” in the Finance office of the Municipality of Guaynabo, that they had “caught” almost 600 (he does not specify if it is $600,000) and warns the then-mayor about amounts in the invoices for work performed.

“I would receive better payment treatment when I had problems with the bills; I would talk to Ángel, and he would talk to the right people so they would pay me,” Santamaría said, according to press coverage of the trial in federal court.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said in a press conference Monday that he is optimistic that the most recent cases of corruption have come to light publicly, including the case against Pérez Otero.

“Here, what is positive within the negative or the controversy is that all this is coming to light,” the governor said. “I hope this serves as a deterrent for other mayors so they do not fall into this type of conduct. In the same way, that it serves as a deterrent so that contractors that have [contracts with] the government, both at the central and municipal levels, do not fall into this type of scheme, which is illegal.”

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