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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ex-Cataño mayor sentenced to a year in prison

Former Cataño Mayor Félix “el Cano” Delgado Montalvo was sentenced to a year in prison on Wednesday in a federal corruption case.

By The Star Staff

Former Cataño Mayor Félix “el Cano” Delgado Montalvo, who pleaded guilty in December 2021 to charges of bribery and receiving kickbacks as part of an illegal scheme involving a municipal contract, was sentenced to a year in federal prison on Wednesday.

Federal Judge Raúl Arias also imposed three years of supervised release, a $20,000 fine and 150 hours of community service after taking into account the seriousness of the crime but also that Delgado had cooperated with authorities in seeking other convictions against corrupt politicians. He was the first of about six mayors prosecuted by the federal government.

The sentencing had been the subject of speculation since last week when the U.S. District Attorney’s Office and Delgado’s lawyers sent their respective sentencing recommendations, which were sealed to the public.

Delgado’s attorney, Juan Matos, declined upon his arrival at the court to speak on a specific sentence, saying only he was going to advocate for the shortest sentence possible.

Last year, Matos said parties had agreed to recommend up to three years or a minimum of 15 months in prison.

During the hearing, Matos asked for a one-year suspended sentence after summarizing all the convictions federal prosecutors achieved because of his client’s cooperation, which included 12 convictions.

Prosecutor Ryan Crosswell advocated for a sentence of one year in prison because of Delgado’s cooperation.

Delgado, who appeared very nervous, told the judge “I am fully sorry and ashamed of the damage I have done. I asked for the forgiveness of the people of Cataño, whom I failed.”

Delgado pleaded guilty in 2021 to a criminal charge related to his involvement in a bribery conspiracy in which he received weekly cash payments in exchange for awarding municipal contracts to a private company. According to court documents, Delgado unjustly enriched himself by accepting items of value, including cash payments.

He received about $70,000 for his 2012 and 2016 political campaigns and about $200,000 in expensive and fancy watches.

A separate indictment alleged that beginning in or around June of 2017, Mario Villegas-Vargas, 42, of Gurabo, who owned an asphalt and paving company in Puerto Rico paid kickbacks and bribes to Delgado. In exchange for those payments, Delgado exerted his influence on municipal officials in Cataño to ensure that Villegas-Vargas’ business was awarded municipal contracts. The indictment alleges that 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.

Villegas-Vargas was charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of federal program bribery, and one count of use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering.

After the Delgado case, the feds convicted 13 people for acts of corruption, including several mayors, such as in Humacao, Aguas Buenas and Trujillo Alto, as well as municipal employees and four contractors. Although the exact total number of cases in which Delgado may have cooperated directly is unknown, he was a witness in the trial against the former mayor of Guaynabo, Ángel Pérez Otero, a year ago.

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