FBI seeks tips on Puerto Rico gov’t contracts probe
Cautions about ‘laundering of proceeds of government fraud’
SAN JUAN — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking the Puerto Rico public’s help in identifying acts of corruption.
The agency issued a press release Friday, saying it is investigating patterns of conduct concerning government corruption and fraud with respect to the contracting of goods, services and personnel.
“These investigations began with information provided by individuals who observed this conduct, and recent history has shown that information provided by the public can and does greatly increase the chances of a successful prosecution of those responsible. We therefore ask the public and private sectors and the community for any additional evidence of which they are aware,” the release reads.
The FBI explained it investigates allegations of federal bribery laws when a “functionary does an official act, such as awarding a job or contract, and this is done in exchange for something of value that was or will be given to the functionary. This thing of value could take the form of money, valuable property, or support to an election campaign, and the thing of value could be paid before or after the official act takes place.”
The agency said that although it “recognizes that there are also many honest public servants in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who perform their duties every day with honor and distinction,” the agency is taking measures to protect the public, “which is entitled to the honest services of their officials.”
The following is the type of information sought with respect to government contracting:
• Contracts approved, or jobs awarded, to individuals or companies who were not the lowest bidders, and may have been significantly less qualified than other competitors for the contract or position.
• A failure to follow ordinary business practices in the awarding of jobs or contracts.
• Large expenses paid by a company that received a government contract, which would not have been necessary if one of the company’s competitors had received the contract.
The FBI also cautioned businesses and financial institutions about the following red flags concerning the “laundering of proceeds of government fraud or corruption”:
• Payments received by an individual or company as a “consultant” or “advisor,” when that person or company has no apparent experience or expertise in the particular trade.
• Payments received into accounts opened in the name of a business followed only by cash withdrawals or the payment of personal expenses.
• Cash deposits made into accounts by people other than the account holders.
• Government payments received into accounts opened in the name of a company that was formed within the past year, and has no banking history.
• Payments received into accounts that have sat dormant for a long period of time, and suddenly have a spike in deposit activity.
• Cash payments received into accounts of individuals with a close relationship to a government official.
The last release the FBI issued related to its Puerto Rico operations was on Tuesday and in collaboration with the Justice Department. It involved a Banco Popular employee who was charged Monday with obstruction of a criminal investigation and making false statements, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico announced.
The FBI is in charge of the investigation concerning allegations that around September, Juan Carlos Díaz-Rodríguez notified individuals about a federal grand jury subpoena for customer records at the bank. The subpoena served on Banco Popular related to “possible crimes involving” money laundering.
The Justice Department said that in June, Díaz-Rodríguez lied when he told the FBI he had not photographed or sent a picture of the subpoena to anyone.
Last week, then-Puerto Rico Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado said he was speaking to the FBI. On Monday he alleged the existence of what he called an “institutional mafia” in his department.
The FBI asked that anyone with tips or information on potential government may contact the FBI San Juan Field Office anonymously at 787-754-6000 or to submit tips through its website, www.Tips.FBI.Gov.