Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today said that, given this morning’s FBI arrests of high-ranking former Puerto Rican government officials and a key private-sector accounting executive, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló needs to take immediate steps to restore his administration’s credibility and protect the interests of the Puerto Rican people. Federal law enforcement officials held a press conference at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time today to discuss the arrests and the larger case, which has involved multiple rounds of arrests as part of an ongoing federal investigation of Puerto Rican government contracting practices.
This morning’s arrests include two officials with BDO Puerto Rico, a large accounting firm with government ties, including the firm’s president:
- Julia Keleher, former Secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Education
- Angela Avilá, former Executive Director, Puerto Rico State Health Insurance Administration
- Fernardo Scherer, President, BDO PR
- Alberto Velázquez Piñol, subcontractor, BDO PR
The group faces a total of 32 charges stemming from a longstanding practice of awarding federal contracts to friends and politically connected allies. Specific charges include fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering.
“Announcing a zero-tolerance attitude toward corruption is easy. Taking meaningful steps to prevent and punish it is leadership,” Grijalva said today. “The Puerto Rican people deserve a government that takes public service seriously, that’s transparent and accountable, and that doesn’t let this happen in the first place. Gov. Rosselló has little time and much to do to restore public faith in his government, and I urge him to take a housecleaning approach as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”
While the problems Puerto Rico faces are larger than the unfolding corruption scandal, Grijalva said, addressing public confidence in government must be Rosselló’s top priority.
The arrests took place against the backdrop of the Puerto Rican people’s ongoing struggle to receive federal relief money years after Hurricane Maria wiped out significant portions of the island’s infrastructure and economy. Grijalva held a public listening session in San Juan in March to give Puerto Ricans a direct platform to share their ideas on the best economic and reconstruction path forward.
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