Puerto Rico Super PAC pleads guilty to black money scheme, possible link to Governor Pierluisi
San Juan, Puerto Rico – On May 5, the super PAC Salvemos a Puerto Rico and its president pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying documents to hide the identity of donors from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which led to a investigating whether they were coordinating with Governor Pedro Pierluisi’s 2020 government. campaign.
Joseph “Joey” Fuentes Fernández served as president and treasurer of Salvemos a Puerto Rico, which organized to raise funds and support then-candidate Pierluisi’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign.
Shortly after Salvemos was established in Puerto Rico, Fuentes Fernández and his associates founded “two nonprofit § 501(c)(4) shell social welfare organizations,” Fundacion Pro Igualdad Inc. and Foundation for Progress Inc. ., according to a Department of Justice. Press release.
The nonprofits, which shared some of the same leaders and were founded within minutes of each other, were used to solicit $495,000 which was then quickly passed on to Salvemos in Puerto Rico. With the money safely in the vaults of Salvemos in Puerto Rico, the super PAC and Fuentes Fernández reported to the FEC that the money came from the two aforementioned nonprofits in an effort to conceal the identities of the true donors. of the SuperPAC.
In October 2020, Fuentes Fernández texted a potential donor saying he could “use a third party to not disclose the true donor”.
Fuentes Fernández declined a request for comment from Latino Rebels, stating over email, “I don’t want to say more than what I said on May 5.”
“The government has a justified basis (for this case),” Fuentes Fernández told the judge on May 5, 2022 when asked if he was sure he wanted to waive his right to present a defense. “It was a huge mistake on my part. I feel terrible about it and just want to put it behind me.
As part of the plea, Salvemos a Puerto Rico agreed to pay a $150,000 fine and file an amended report with the FEC that must contain the true identities of the nonprofit’s 2020 donors to our days.
Meanwhile, Fuentes Fernández and Salvemos in Puerto Rico are due for sentencing on August 15. Fuentes Fernández faces a maximum of five years in prison.
The most significant project funded by the donations was a smear campaign against Pierluisi’s political rival for the New Progressive Party (PNP) nomination, Wanda Vázquez Garced, who herself is involved in a federal investigation due to irregularities in his 2020 campaign for governor.
Many have wondered if then-candidate Pierluisi’s election campaign, led by his sister Caridad Pierluisi, had any involvement or arrangement with the super PAC, given that Fuentes Fernández and Governor Pierluisi have been friends since they were at University.
Governor Pierluisi has repeatedly denied the claims, saying “there is no way” his campaign was involved in some kind of collusion with Salvemos in Puerto Rico.
Audio in possession of In white and black with Sandra disputes these claims. In the audio, businessman Ricky Castro, who was implicated in the federal charges against Salvemos in Puerto Rico, can be heard explaining that he donated $50,000 to attack Vázquez Garced and names the one of his six lawyers Andrés “Andy” Guillemard, husband of Caridad Pierluisi and brother-in-law of the Governor.
According to Castro in the audio, he was originally going to donate the $50,000 to fund a campaign against San Juan mayoral candidate Rossana López of the People’s Democratic Party (PPD), but changed his mind afterward. that Guillemard told her she was third in the polls. Subsequently, he set his sights on Wanda Vázquez Garced.
“He (Guillemard) told me ‘a PAC is going to be created’ and I said to him ‘here I have the $50,000’. Let me know when you need them. When you need them, they are there” , Castro can be heard saying in the audio.
The Governor’s Office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Castro also could not be reached.
During the federal investigation into Salvemos in Puerto Rico, Fuentes Fernández cooperated with federal authorities and wore a recording device during his meetings with several officials and lawmakers. Federal authorities have these recordings in their possession, which will likely be released to the public as the legal proceedings continue.
The Office of the Electoral Comptroller opened, closed and then reopened an investigation into possible coordination between Salvemos a Puerto Rico and Pierluisi’s campaign. The parties concerned have 15 days to respond to the investigation.
Vázquez Garced’s campaign manager, Jorge Dávila, filed the initial complaint which launched the first investigation, which was halted in September 2020.
At a press conference in La Fortaleza on Monday, Governor Pierluisi said he would call for the investigation to be dismissed.
While Governor Pierluisi’s alleged ties to Salvemos in Puerto Rico and federal issues hot on the heels of Wanda Vázquez Garced are the most high-profile political dramas currently gripping Puerto Rican politics, they are by no means the alone. This election cycle has seen five mayors, a vice mayor and a former mayor arrested for corruption by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Carlos Edill Berrios Polanco is a freelance journalist, primarily focusing on civil unrest, extremism and political corruption. Twitter: @Vaquero2XL