Ex-FBI agent pleads not guilty in ex-governor’s public corruption case
By The Star Staff
Former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Mark Thomas Rossini, who is co-accused with former Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced of public corruption, pleaded not guilty Tuesday before federal judge Camille Vélez Rivé.
Rossini, who voluntarily surrendered to federal agents, is charged with allegedly conspiring with the owner of Bancrédito, Julio Herrera Velutini, to bribe the former governor and commit electronic fraud.
Additionally, a $50,000 secured bond was set.
Rossini resides in Spain, where he is undergoing cancer treatment and, according to press reports, he could travel to continue his medical treatment.
The former FBI agent faces a jail sentence of 20 years in prison.
The former governor, who was arrested by federal authorities last Thursday, also pleaded not guilty to the alleged bribery and wire fraud scheme in her 2020 primary campaign.
According to the indictment, beginning in 2019, Herrera Velutini’s bank was the subject of an examination by Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF), a regulatory agency that oversees financial institutions operating in Puerto Rico. Through intermediaries, Herrera Velutini and Rossini allegedly promised to provide funding to support Vázquez Garced’s 2020 gubernatorial election campaign in exchange for Vázquez Garced terminating the commissioner of OCIF, George Richard Joyner, and appointing a new commissioner of Herrera Velutini’s choosing, Víctor Rodríguez Bonilla, who worked at Bancrédito.
According to the indictment, Herrera Velutini attended a wedding of an individual identified as Individual C and was seated at the same table as Vázquez Garced. When Blakeman sent a text message to Herrera seeking support, Herrera replied “She has it! At this table she already has 2MM,” then later wrote “But she has to resolve OCIF.”
The indictment alleges that Vázquez Garced accepted the offer of a bribe and, in February 2020, took official action to demand the resignation of OCIF Commissioner A and, in May 2020, to appoint OCIF Commissioner B – a former consultant for the international bank owned by Herrera Velutini – who had been personally selected by Herrera Velutini. In return, Herrera Velutini and Rossini allegedly paid more than $300,000 to political consultants in support of Vázquez Garced’s campaign.
The indictment further alleges that following Vázquez Garced’s primary election loss in August.
2020, Herrera Velutini sought to bribe her successor, identified as Public Official A, presumably current Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, by offering funding in support of Public Official A’s campaign in exchange for Public Official A ending OCIF’s audit of Herrera Velutini’s bank on terms favorable to Herrera Velutini.
According to the indictment, between April 2021 and August 2021, Herrera Velutini allegedly used intermediaries to convey his offer of a bribe to a witness, presumably Joseph Fuentes Fernández, who held himself out as a representative of Public Official A, but who was in fact acting at the direction of the FBI. As noted in the indictment, the witness was acting at the direction of the FBI during this timeframe and not actually serving as an intermediary of, or acting on behalf of, Public Official A, the officials said.
In August 2021, Herrera Velutini allegedly directed a $25,000 payment to a political action committee associated with Public Official A, with the understanding and expectation that Public Official A would resolve OCIF’s audit of Herrera Velutini’s bank in the manner requested by Herrera Velutini.