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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ex-governor’s trial scheduled for early next year

Former Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced

By The Star Staff

U.S. District Judge Silvia Carreño Coll has scheduled the criminal trial against former Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, Venezuelan banker Julio Herrera Velutini and former FBI agent Mark Rossini for Jan. 21, 2025.

The trial will occur after the general elections and the swearing-in of a new governor. The parties could not agree to start the trial this year.

The three were charged with seven counts related to an alleged bribery scheme to benefit Vázquez Garced’s political campaign.

According to the indictment, from December 2019 through June 2020, Vázquez Garced, 62, allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme with Herrera Velutini, Frances Díaz, Rossini and John Blakeman to finance Vázquez Garced’s 2020 gubernatorial election campaign.

Herrera Velutini, 50, a dual Venezuelan-Italian citizen residing in London, owned an international bank operating in San Juan. Díaz, 50, of Puerto Rico, was the CEO and president of the international bank owned by Herrera Velutini. The bank, which was not identified in the indictment, is Bancrédito International Bank & Trust.

Rossini, 60, of Madrid, Spain, provided consulting services to Herrera Velutini. Blakeman, 53, is a political consultant who worked on Vázquez Garced’s 2020 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 by its Spanish initials), a regulatory agency that oversees financial institutions operating on the island. 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 Bancredito.

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 Velutini seeking support, Herrera Velutini replied “She has it! In 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.

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