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Indicted former Puerto Rico Education sec’s assistant sentenced to probation

By on September 17, 2019

Former Education Secretary Julia Keleher (CB file)

Claimed housing, Medicaid while working with Keleher, who paid in cash

SAN JUAN — On Tuesday afternoon, federal Judge Aida Delgado sentenced Iovaska Claudio Vargas, the personal assistant of indicted former Education Secretary Julia Keleher, to a year and a half probation for making false statements when applying for the federal housing program, Section 8, and participating in the Medicaid program despite not being eligible.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Judge Delgado sentenced Keleher’s former assistant, who was represented by Allan A. Rivera Fernández, to 18 months probation.

Claudio Vargas must return $3,000 to the federal government. She did make remarks in court before being handed her sentence. According to the criminal case file, on May 30, Keleher’s former assistant pleaded guilty before the federal Magistrate Judge Camille Vélez Rivé to five charges related to making false statements when requesting Section 8 eligibility and claiming she did not work in either the private or public sectors nor was self-employed.

Specifically, according to indictment returned by a grand jury on Jan. 4, Claudio Vargas’s made the false statements on Sept. 15, 2017, Sept. 19, 2018, and Nov. 29, 2018, to benefit of the housing program. She would receive $800 a month to pay apartment rent.

The case file states that Claudio Vargas worked for the former Education secretary at the time, as her personal assistant, earning monthly income.

Likewise, the indictment for which Claudio Vargas was sentenced includes that, on June 20, 2018, she falsely stated she was unemployed to receive Medicaid program benefits. Claudio Vargas again made a false statement for the same purpose Aug. 28, 2018.

An affidavit by an agent of the Education Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which accompanies the criminal complaint filed by the federal prosecutor on Dec. 4, argues that it all began early in 2017 when Claudio Vargas met Officer 1 of the Puerto Rico Department of Education and began working as her personal assistant, earning a monthly salary for her services.

According to the legal document, on July 6, 2017, Claudio Vargas sent Keleher an email requesting to be her personal assistant. Her husband is a police officer and was part of the then-secretary of Education’s security escort.

After providing a copy of her high school diploma, according to the affidavit, Keleher hired Claudio Vargas and even took out a credit card in her name to pay utilities, clothes she sent to the laundry, supermarket purchases and even furniture for her apartment.

Keleher paid Claudio Vargas in cash, and the affidavit states that the income was never notified to either the housing department or Medicaid nor did she file returns with Treasury.

A review of the archives of the Department of the Treasury showed that “Officer 1,” or Keleher, did not file either a W-2 or Form 480 in relation to Claudio Vargas nor that Claudio Vargas filed income tax returns, according to the affidavit that gave way to the arrest of Keleher’s former assistant.

Follow Limarys Suárez Torres on Twitter: @Limarys_Suarez

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