Skip to comments.Union Leaders in Puerto Rico Convicted in Federal Court
Posted on 06/16/2006 12:30:19 PM PDT by rrstar96
Nine hours of deliberations over two days were enough for a jury to unanimously find today 10 former leaders of the Authentic Independent Union (UIA) guilty of Federal charges of conspiracy, embezzlement, and money laundering.
Federal judge José A. Fusté agreed to a request from prosecutors and ordered the immediate imprisonment of the 10 convicts. "A conviction of this magnitude requires extreme measures.....Society must get the message that this conduct is in no way acceptable," the judge stated.
"This type of crime has serious consequences, so I am not of the mind that this can be permitted," said Judge Fusté, who read the unanimous verdict from the jury which consisted of seven men and five women.
The judge denied the motion of the defense attorneys that the convicts be allowed to remain free on bail.
Juan Ramón Acevedo, attorney for former UIA President Héctor René Lugo, pointed out that the union leaders complied with the bail conditions at all times and questioned the judge over other notorious government-corruption cases in which immediate imprisonment of the convicted was not ordered.
"They do not represent a threat to society, nor are they in risk of fleeing....there have been other similar cases in this court where the accused have not been ordered to prison....this is discriminatory against my client," Acevedo said.
The judge reprimanded him: "Don't ruin the day."
Miriam Ramos, attorney for former secretary Elba García, echoed Acevedo's words and reminded Fusté that this is the union leaders' first convictions.
"This is discriminatory and I want to be on record," said Ramos, to whom the judge rebutted: "That is not an argument under the rule, counsel."
The union leaders were handcuffed and removed from court by deputies while their families cried.
Among the accused, the only one who showed emotion was Jorge Urbina, who cried in court while he looked at his wife. The others remained unemotional.
All were accused of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering for supposedly diverting $15.2 million from the health plan and embezzling $5.8 million.
Once found guilty, the defendants faced prison sentences of 5 to 20 years and fines of up to $500,000.
An eleventh defendant, former Vice-President Andrés Carrasquillo, will stand trial separately since he experienced health problems while the first trial proceeded.
Amid deep sorrow, Lugo's sister Carmen affirmed that his brother is not a thief. "My brother comes from an honorable family from Ponce....He who made an everlasting monument to workers never thought of stealing," she said with tears in her eyes.
"This was premeditated. The government wants to destroy the labor unions, and they chose my brother as a guinea pig because he would yield to no one. What the rich and the powerful want to do is to get rid of the poor," Lugo said.
Carmen Lugo would make a good Democrat.
And the "Governor" is being investigated by a federal grand jury on possible campaign law violations, money laundering...developing.
It must be noted that this is a public utility union, that "representing" the workers of the Aquaduct and Sewer Authority,
Thanks for clarifying this. Based on the latest news I have read, that is one agency that is in bad shape.
One of these issues involves a $20,000 donation Acevedo received in 1999 and which ended up in his sister's personal bank account. Of course, the Governor denies any wrongdoing and says that the investigation, which was prompted by former Governor and former Resident Commissioner Carlos Romero Barceló with the opposition New Progressive Party, is politically motivated.
This might be pushing the tinfoil hat boundary, but pundits here are already sentencing that the "permanent colonial government" has determined that Anibal Acevedo-Vila has turned into a liability and that it is time to replace him.
It is indeed rare that the feds would go against him and his political party.
And the U.S. Navy, don't forget to blame the U.S. Navy! Blaming the U.S. Navy for everything never fails to work in Puerto Rico.