Governor of Puerto Rico indicted in campaign finance probe

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

File:AnibalAcevedoVila.jpg
Gov. Acevedo Vilá
Image: Office of the Governor.

Today, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, was indicted with 19 counts related to irregularities found in the financing of his campaigns for public offices on and off the island. Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States.

Indicted along with Acevedo Vilá are 12 other people associated with his Popular Democratic Party, all living in Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., or Philadelphia. In total, there were 27 charges.

The U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez of the District of Puerto Rico said that, because of the nature of the crimes he is charged with, the Governor himself will not be arrested immediately and will be given a chance to "give himself up to the police." Some of the other people charged, however, have already been arrested and await trial.

The 13 defendants are charged with conspiracy, false statements, wire fraud, federal program fraud and tax crimes related to the financing for the Governor's 1999-2002 campaigns for Resident Commissioner, the sole representative of the island in the U.S. Congress, and for his subsequent 2004 gubernatorial run.

This indictment comes after a two-year investigation by a Grand Jury of donations made to the Governor's past campaigns.

The defendants face three to ten years in federal prison, as well as several $100,000 to $250,000 fines.

Acevedo Vilá's lawyer Thomas Green says he will defend the Governor "vigorously", and that he finds it troubling that these accusations come only months before the General Elections in Puerto Rico, in which the Governor will run for a second term.

Governor Acevedo Vilá made a televised statement at 5:30 p.m. local time (22:30 UTC) in which he defended himself from the accusations and indicated he will continue in his post.

Governor Acevedo Vilá is the chairman of the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico, which supports the island's current Commonwealth status with the United States, instead of full statehood or independence.


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