Real Estate

Puerto Rican mayor arrested for misuse of HUD funds

Mayor and 2 others accused of defrauding government of $8 million

A Puerto Rican mayor and two former government officials were recently arrested on corruption charges that involved $8 million in federal and local funds, according to an article by The Associated Press.

The two officials are former directors of finance from the island’s town Toa Baja, and the mayor is from Sabana Grande, according to the article. The two officials are accused of stealing $5 million in federal funds to pay the town’s public employees, while Mayor Miguel Ortiz is accused of stealing $3 million in a separate scheme from 2013 to 2016.

From the article:

Officials said former finance director Victor Cruz Quintero deposited some $2.5 million worth of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into the town's general and payroll accounts in October 2014.

He also is accused of making similar deposits and transfers of more than $1.75 million in funds from HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services from September 2014 to February 2016.

And the town’s former Interim Finance Director Angle Santos Garcia is accused of misusing $650,000 from those two agencies, according to the article. Ortiz, in addition to the $3 million he defrauded the government of, is also accused to financing projects without approval from the island’s Department of Education, as well as misrepresenting the projects’ costs.

But this isn’t the first run-in HUD has had with government officials in Puerto Rico. In fact, after last year’s Hurricane Maria, the island was critical of the administration’s response and the help provided by HUD.

Back in October last year, President Donald Trump tweeted statements about Puerto Rico’s poor financial state “largely of their own making,” saying the U.S. can’t continue to help the island forever.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized the president’s response, and then later responded to his comments by asking, “every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE.”

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