Recent updates on top
3:50PM The Washington Post
Democrat Anibal Acevedo Vila, 48, and his top advisers accepted thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations from Philadelphia area businessmen and their employees to wipe away substantial debts stemming from campaign expenses prior to 2002, which were never reported to federal election officials, Justice Department officials said.
Acevedo Vila, who served as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives between 2001 and 2005, also took money in connection with his official role but did not declare the income for tax purposes, according to the indictment unveiled this morning.
The Trail: Charges range from conspiracy, false statements, wire fraud, federal program fraud and tax crimes.
Quite a menu!
2:30 Make that NINETEEN counts: Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged Thursday with 19 counts in a campaign finance probe, including conspiracy to violate U.S. federal campaign laws and giving false testimony to the FBI.
The indictment also charged 12 others associated with Acevedo’s Popular Democratic Party as a result of a two-year grand jury investigation, acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said.
The defendants in Puerto Rico, Washington and the Philadelphia area are accused of conspiring to illegally raise money to pay off Acevedo’s campaign debts from his campaigns in 2000 and 2002 to be the U.S. island territory’s nonvoting member of Congress.
“The governor will be permitted to turn himself in deference to his position,” Rodriguez said.
Acevedo, 46, and his associates are accused of conducting unreported fundraising to far exceed funding limits during his 2004 campaign for governor. As part of the fraud, they allegedly used their own or their companies’ money to cover unreported debts to the campaign’s public relations and media company.
The 55-page indictment alleges that Acevedo also personally helped a group of Philadelphia-area businessmen in their efforts to obtain Puerto Rican government contracts after they delivered illegal campaign contributions from their own staff and family members.
My contact in Puerto Rico says that the governor declined to state when he would turn himself in.
1:25PM: Edmund Mahony reports that some Clinton supporters have followed the campaign finance investigation with something close to glee, since Acevedo was a superdelegate for Obama.
Puerto Rican Governor Faces 18 Counts
Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila is among several people named in a sealed indictment, officials said Thursday, as U.S. authorities made the first arrests in a long-running probe into his party’s finances.
An Associated Press reporter saw at least five officials from the Popular Democratic Party as they were led in handcuffs into the U.S. federal building in San Juan.
An FBI spokesman declined to provide any details, saying there would be news conference later.
Acevedo has said previously that he was a focus of the grand jury probe but he was not among those seen in custody. His spokeswoman said he was still home sleeping at the time of the early morning arrests as far as she knew.
Will update this story as it develops.
Puerto Rico’s governor and four Philadelphians, including prominent fund-raiser Robert M. Feldman, were charged this morning in San Juan with federal campaign-finance related crimes.
The investigation of Gov. Anibal Acevedo-Vila, a Democrat who faces re-election this year, was triggered by the FBI’s Philadelphia City Hall corruption probe in 2003.
Feldman, who raised more than $1 million for Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and Gov. Rendell, was a former business partner of Ronald A. White, the late power-broker who was the lead defendant in the Philadelphia corruption case.
Feldman was investigated but not charged in the Philadelphia case. In San Juan, he was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate federal election laws.
The governor was charged with conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false tax return.
Feldman and others from Philadelphia were charged with conspiring to help Acevedo-Vila evade federal election rules to raise more than $100,000 in campaign funds as a way of gaining access and “to further their business interests” in Puerto Rico.
The indictment says that shortly after Feldman helped with a fund-raiser in Philadelphia in 2002, Acevedo-Vila contacted a Puerto Rico government agency to request a meeting on behalf of a company associated with Feldman. Authorities also say Acevedo-Vila set up a second meeting with an island housing agency on Feldman’s behalf in 2003.
The indictment says that it was Feldman who came up with the idea of skirting campaign-finance laws by funneling cash to Avecedo-Vila through others in Philadelphia and South Jersey.
According to the indictment, Acevedo-Vila carried a $545,000 debt following the 2000 campaign and Feldman was Acevedo-Vila’s “United States finance chairman.” Negron was deputy finance chairman.
Negron’s cousin, Jorge Velasco Mella, worked in Acevedo-Vila’s San Juan office while Acevedo-Vila was in Congress. Block worked with Feldman. Negron and Avanzato were business partners in a dental firm.
“It was an object of the conspiracy to knowingly and willfully solicit and receive illegal contributions for the candidacy of Acevedo-Vila,” the indictment said.
“It was a further object of the conspiracy to conceal from the Federal Election Commission and the public the illegal nature of the contributions and the true extent and nature of the relationship between defendants Feldman, Negron and Avanzato and their associates and Acevedo-Vila, including the access and influence that Acevedo-Vila afforded and exercised on their behalf in Puerto Rico.”
The indictment says the four Philadelphians solicited and received “straw-contributions” – to skirt campaign finance contribution limits, they reimbursed others for donations made to Acevedo-Vila.
Negron and Avanzato “directed their employees, friends and family members to give campaign contributions” and then “reimbursed” them for the donations, according to the indictment.
Negron and Avanzato allegedly used corporate bank accounts and credit cards to disguise the payments, and, the indictment said, paid for “lavish dinners” for Acevedo-Vila.
The indictment says the governor “personally participated in the solicitation, receipt and recording of campaign contributions from Feldman, Negron and Avanzato.”
After the FEC raised concerns that some Philadelphia donors had contributed amounts higher than the $2,000 federal limit, Acevedo-Vila’s campaign refunded the money directly to Negron–and not the contributors, according to the indictment.
Acevedo-Vila’s expected to surrender to federal authorities today.