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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Prosecutors seek 15-year prison term for ex-Rep. Charbonier

Former Rep. María Milagros Charbonier Laureano

By The Star Staff

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday requested a 15-year prison term for convicted former Rep. María Milagros “Tata” Charbonier Laureano for having inflated the salary of one of her legislative employees in exchange for a portion of the employee’s salary.

Prosecutors also recommended sentencing the former legislator’s husband, Orlando Montes Rivera, to a lower prison term. According to the court file, the request made by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico for prison for Montes Rivera is five years and three months, which represents about 63 months.

The information comes to light because this Friday, Charbonier and Montes must appear in U.S. District Court in Hato Rey so that federal judge Silvia Carreño Coll can issue prison terms against them.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from early 2017 until July 2020, Charbonier, a former member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, along with her husband, Montes, and her assistant, Frances Acevedo Ceballos, executed a scheme to defraud the government by engaging in a theft, bribery, and kickback scheme. Throughout the scheme, Charbonier inflated Acevedo Ceballos’ salary from $800 bi-weekly, after taxes, to nearly $2,900. Out of every inflated paycheck, Acevedo would keep a portion and kick back between $1,000 and $1,500 to Charbonier and Montes.

After learning of the investigation into illegal activities in her office and of a warrant for one of her phones, Charbonier proceeded to delete specific data on the phone, including the entire call log, nearly all WhatsApp messages, and nearly all messages associated with the phone.

The jury convicted Charbonier and Montes of one count of conspiracy, two counts of theft, bribery, and kickbacks concerning programs receiving federal funds, six counts of honest services wire fraud, and two counts of money laundering. The jury also convicted Charbonier of obstruction of justice for destroying data on her cell phone.

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