Former Guaynabo mayor Angel Perez Otero found guilty of bribery, extortion, and kickbacks in Puerto Rico

Former Guaynabo Mayor Angel Perez Otero is found guilty of bribery, extortion and kickbacks. Defense plans to appeal the verdict. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
  1. Ex-Guaynabo Mayor convicted of bribery, extortion, and kickbacks may face up to 20 years in prison.
  2. The defense plans to appeal the verdict due to a violation of the presumption of innocence and other legal errors.
  3. The case involves illegal payments made by a contractor to the former mayor in exchange for contracts, highlighting issues of power and greed.

Former Guaynabo Mayor Angel Perez Otero could not hold back tears as he hugged his wife, former legislator Liza Fernandez, as he left courtroom 1 of the Federal Court in Hato Rey, where at about 7:30 p.m. a jury of 10 women and two men rendered a unanimous guilty verdict against him on charges of bribery, extortion and kickbacks.

Outside the courtroom, the couple chose not to comment because, according to Fernandez, “the lawyers said we could not talk yet.” He faces between five and 20 years in prison.

Earlier, the former leader of the New Progressive Party (NPP) mayors assured that he had not reached “any agreement with Oscar Santamaría” and that when his lawyers asked the businessman in court with which municipalities he had established bribery agreements in exchange for the granting of contracts, he mentioned Cataño, Aguas Buenas and Trujillo Alto.

Defense will appeal verdict

For their part, attorneys Eduardo Ferrer Ríos and Osvaldo Carlo Linares, who are part of the legal representation together with attorney José Olmo Rodríguez, confirmed separately to EL VOCERO that the defense plans to appeal the verdict once the sentence is handed down, whose hearing was scheduled for August 8.

“In due time, we will be attending to the legal matters about this matter. This is a very difficult case when the prosecution has published evidence in a bail motion that should have been sealed. The presumption has already been touched before the media and the general public, which has been the contention throughout this process. Here the constitutional right of the presumption of innocence was violated from the beginning,” said Ferrer Ríos, who did not rule out that the use of the photos in which Pérez Otero appears accepting a package containing $5,000 – according to Santamaría’s testimony – could be the basis of the appeal along with “other errors of law.

For his part, Carlo Linares stated that this type of case is always appealed.

“We always said it is a difficult case. Obviously, from the beginning, we saw those photos of Angel that had a lot of impacts, and we were litigating against a government that had a 95% conviction rate plus an advantage created by those photos,” said Carlo Linares.

During his turn on the witness stand, Santamaría accepted that he made “illegal payments to Ángel Pérez, former mayor of Guaynabo, to obtain contracts and benefits from the municipality” and acknowledged that the scheme began between late 2018 and early 2019 and that he made monthly payments of $5,000 to the former mayor.

Judge Aida Delgado granted the defense’s request for the former mayor to continue in the free community under the same bail conditions until he is sentenced

Power and greed

Before the jury began its deliberation, prosecutor Myriam Y. Fernandez Gonzalez condensed the criminal charges facing the former governor into two words: “power and greed.”

“They will hear a defense argument of what this case is not about. (The defense) I will try to characterize the facts as unreported political campaign contributions, and I will explain to them that it is the opposite. This is not Angel (Perez Otero) versus Oscar (Santamaria). This is about an agreement and a conspiracy. They are the two sides of the same coin, the mayor and the contractor, power and greed”, continued the prosecutor during the final argument of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Fernández González mentioned that one of the elements that the U.S. District Attorney’s Office has to prove in relation to the bribery charge is that the former mayor accepted something of value through corrupt means intending to influence or reward the other party before beginning to review the evidence that was paraded in court, including the three video recordings corresponding to meetings between Pérez Otero and Santamaría, captured on three separate dates in 2021, May 19, July 1 and August 19. Santamaría testified in court that each envelope contained $5,000 in cash.

Likewise, Fernandez Gonzalez accompanied his allocution with a flow chart with boxes with the names of several trusted employees within the defendant’s municipal administration, such as the former directors of the Economic Development and Public Works offices – Raul Torres Gomez and Wilfredo Martinez – and dates that explained their relationship outside the work environment.

The prosecutor then presented several of the photos she used yesterday to confront the only defense witness, Torres Gómez, who in the past was married to Pérez Otero’s current wife, former legislator, and former judge Liza Fernández.

“All these people of trust, friends, and family were linked to the process of the awarding of the contract and the Auction Board. They are people who are together. They are friends, they are family,” added the prosecutor as she went into detail about the testimony of contractor Carlos de Jesús Pagán, who revealed that Santamaría employed him to represent and then preside over Island Builders and that it was his “boss” who notified him that the municipality of Guaynabo would call him to ask him for bids for several jobs in 2020.

The contractor confirmed that the call was made and that Island Builders won a contract for work in the Rios neighborhood, which was amended three times.

Other bribery cases

Pérez Otero was arrested on December 9, 2021. His case is the first investigative process executed by federal authorities concerning the bribery and kickback schemes with federal funds of Santamaría and “El Cano” Delgado, which reaches the trial stage.

The officials and businessmen linked to similar schemes in other municipalities have pleaded guilty.