The Puerto Rico mayor accused of stealing more than $600,000 while campaigning for a seat in Congress has admitted to making corrupt use of federal aid to rebuild after Hurricane Maria and is expected to plead guilty later on Monday.
Isidro López Rivera, mayor of the town of Utuado, signed an agreement Friday to plead guilty to multiple criminal charges. The agreement states he will admit to using federal disaster aid to personally pay personal expenses and to write dozens of fraudulent $2,500 checks to himself.
López Rivera will plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns.
Government prosecutors alleged that after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, López Rivera and other people ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and falsely claimed to have incurred those expenses through the federal relief effort. Prosecutors say he got more than $600,000.
Isidro López Rivera, mayor of Utuado, in San Juan. Photograph: Danilo Medina/AP
Under an agreement he reached with prosecutors in August, López Rivera agreed to forfeit $1.38m in assets that he had acquired during the time period covered by the charges.
Prosecutors allege that in April López Rivera was in charge of transporting emergency relief supplies to Utuado. Prosecutors say he took six trips to San Juan, where he was assigned a driver for which he paid a stipend of $950 per trip.
On September 5, 2017, while he was still mayor, López Rivera drove the so-called driver to four different points in Utuado, where the driver handed him checks for the amount of $900 each. The checks were padded, and prosecutors say López Rivera and his aides ran up $22,850 in fraudulent expenses.
López Rivera faces 10 years in prison.
López Rivera becomes the ninth elected official in Puerto Rico to be charged in the past three years in a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that has resulted in guilty pleas and hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, prison sentences and restitution payments.
Last week, a federal judge in New York revoked the bail of Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s non-voting delegate in Congress. Prosecutors alleged he spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to pay personal expenses including the rent on a hotel room in an upscale district of New York, rental payments on a vehicle and meals in restaurants with costly entrées such as tuna tartare.