THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2004
TWO CHARGED AND ANOTHER PLEADS GUILTY IN EXTORTION CONSPIRACY CONNECTED WITH SUPERAQUEDUCT CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS IN SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division announced today that two defendants have been charged, and a third has pleaded guilty, in connection with a public corruption investigation into a construction project in Puerto Rico known as Superaqueduct.
A federal grand jury in
San Juan, Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment today charging ReneVazquez-Botet
and Marcos Morell-Corrada with conspiracy, extortion and fraud. The indictment
alleges that in early 1995, the defendants, together with Jose Granados-Navedo
- then a member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico - extorted money from engineering and construction contractors based
in Puerto Rico who obtained contracts for the construction of Puerto Rico's
Superaqueduct, a $372 million project that included the construction of a
50-mile water pipe from the west to the east of the island. The indictment
alleges that Vazquez-Botet, Morell-Corrada and Granados-Navedo demanded more
than $2 million from the contractors for assistance in securing and preserving
their Superaqueduct contracts.
Morell-Corrada, 58, served
as the Secretary-General of the same political party as Vazquez from 1991
until his resignation in 1996, when he resumed the private practice of law.
The indictment alleges that he received approximately $125,000 between September
1997 and May 1999, mostly under the guise of a sham retainer agreement for
legal services. He is also alleged to have received payments in the form
of: (1) purchases of appliances for his residence, (2) the payment of fees
he incurred for architectural services related to a building he was rehabilitating,
(3) car rentals, and (4) a donation to a basketball team with which he was
associated. According to the indictment, Marcos Morell-Corrada fraudulently
concealed a portion of his income from the extortion scheme on his tax returns
for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.