Head of PAC that backed Pierluisi for governor reaches plea bargain on illegal donations
Governor denies any relationship between Salvemos a Puerto Rico & his campaign committee
By The Star Staff
The head of a political action committee (PAC) that reportedly worked for the election of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia has reached a plea bargain with prosecutors for participating in a scheme of illegal donations.
Joseph Fuentes Fernández, president of Salvemos a Puerto Rico (Save Puerto Rico), reached an agreement with prosecutors on May 3, according to an electronic filing in federal court.
According to the document, Fuentes Fernández agreed to be indicted on one count of conspiracy to falsify and conceal material facts in reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) sometime between March and November 2020. He pleaded guilty to falsely listing the names of straw donors, identified as Non-Profit 1 and Non-Profit 2, as the true sources of donations and by continuing to funnel money through the straw donors to Salvemos a Puerto Rico.
The governor on Wednesday denied any relationship between his campaign committee and Salvemos a Puerto Rico or Fuentes Fernández.
The PAC campaigned against then-governor Wanda Vázquez Garced. Vázquez Garced’s former campaign manager, Jorge Dávila, filed a complaint against the PAC with the FEC.
Fuentes Fernández, who waived his right to be indicted by the grand jury, will plead guilty to a complaint filed by prosecutors Seth Erbe and Scott Anderson. He is represented by counsel José Aguayo, while Salvemos a Puerto Rico, which also had a plea bargain, is represented by Joaquín Monserrate Matienzo.
The maximum penalty, according to the documents, is five years and a fine of about $500,000.
According to the complaint filed by the FEC, beginning in or about March 2020 and continuing until in or about November 2020, Fuentes Fernández and Salvemos a Puerto Rico circumvented the Elections Law through the use of shell nonprofit corporations, which purported to make legal donations to PAC in their own names rather than in the names of the true sources of the funds.
“By concealing the identities of real donors to Salvemos a Puerto Rico, and by falsely reporting that the shell nonprofit corporations were the donors when in fact they were not, Fuentes and Salvemos a Puerto Rico deprived the public of information about the true source of hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing into the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s political system,” the complaint reads.
Pierluisi told the press on Wednesday that “I do not have the details of that matter.”
“I understand from the report I heard that it has to do with a PAC. If so, what I reiterate is that the PACs are independent of the campaign committees,” he said. “My campaign committee did not coordinate its activities with any PAC. Any PAC that has committed illegality has nothing to do with my campaign committee. That is what I can say based on the information I have, but I do not have the details of that matter.”
Later, in a written statement, the governor said that “[t]oday violations of the law by the political action committee (PAC), Salvemos a Puerto Rico, and its president have transpired. Given this information, I must reiterate that in compliance with the law, my campaign committee did not coordinate its activities with those of any PAC, including Salvemos a Puerto Rico.”
“The management of my campaign committee is something that my team has handled correctly for the past 16 years,” Pierluisi added. “Regarding the electoral processes of the year 2020, the Office of the Electoral Comptroller of Puerto Rico carried out an exhaustive audit of the activities of my committee and concluded that it complied with all the requirements of the law.”