• The Star Staff

FBI arrests ex-producer Sixto George in connection with Telegram chat case

By The Star Staff

A federal grand jury on Wednesday charged former media producer Sixto Jorge Díaz Colón, better known as Sixto George, with extortion and obstruction of justice in relation to the controversial Telegram chat messages that led to the resignations of former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and a group of his close advisers during the summer of 2019.

It was the first arrest related to the controversial Telegram chat.

Díaz Colón, 52, was charged with three counts of extortion and obstruction of justice for trying to extort a public official in the government of Puerto Rico on June 20, 2019 to secure $300,000 and government contracts in exchange for preventing the publication of Telegram messages. According to the indictment, Díaz Colón knew of the existence of the chat going back to at least February 2019 after a government “subcontractor,” identified as Person 1 in the indictment, obtained the document from a high-ranking government official, described as Person 2.

On June 20, 2019, Díaz Colón allegedly contacted Anthony Maceira, the then-La Fortaleza secretary of public affairs, to demand that officials stop their public attacks against the high-ranking government official identified as “Person 2” in the indictment. He warned there was evidence to damage the administration starting with the governor, identified as Person 3 in the indictment, and his close associates.

The following day, Díaz Colón and Maceira met at an unidentified restaurant in San Juan. At the meeting, Díaz Colón asked that government contracts remain for the “subcontractor,” identified as Person 1 in the document, who had a file containing the damaging Telegram messages. He specifically requested a contract for a company with the Department of the Treasury and for another company with the Office of Management and Budget. Maceira, identified as Person 4 in the indictment, presumably was afraid of getting burned.

Person 1 is presumably attorney Rauli Maldonado and Person 2 is former Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado, who was forced to resign after denouncing the existence of an institutional mafia at the agency.

In July 2019, the Telegram chat messages were released to several media outlets. The contents led to weeks of protests and the resignation of the governor.

When approached by the FBI on July 26, 2019, Díaz Colón is alleged to have deleted Telegram messages containing information about his involvement in the scheme, before surrendering his cellular telephone to the authorities.

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant sought to extort a public official of the government of Puerto Rico for his own financial gain, and then compounded his crime by allegedly destroying evidence of his involvement in the scheme when approached by the FBI,” said Nicholas L. McQuaid, acting assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a statement. “The Criminal Division is committed to preserving the public’s confidence in our government and protecting public and private citizens alike from the types of criminal exploitation posed by the defendant.”

“Defendant Sixto Jorge Díaz Colón threatened and attempted to extort government officials for $300,000 and the awarding of government contracts,” said Stephen Muldrow, U.S. attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “He threatened to use his influence as a member of the media and on behalf of two public relations firms to destroy the reputations of public officials if they didn’t comply with his requests. Make no mistake, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partner agencies will prosecute those who attempt to extort others and obstruct justice to the fullest extent of the law.”

The case is being investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Criminal Chief Timothy Henwood and Division Chief Myriam Fernández-González of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Trial Attorney Michael N. Lang of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN). Former PIN Trial Attorney James Pearce also assisted in the investigation.

Díaz Colón appeared later at the initial hearing before federal magistrate Bruce McGiverin, who informed him of the charges against him and that he faces sentences of up to 20 years in prison. He was represented by attorney Joannie Plaza from the Office of the Federal Public Defender.

For the first charge, the former radio producer is exposed to a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and two years of supervised release; for the second charge he is exposed to up to two years in prison and a fine of $250,000; and for the third charge he is exposed to 20 years of prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release.

McGiverin posted a bond of $15,000. The formal arraignment hearing was scheduled for Feb. 9 at 1:30 p.m.