An expressionless Abel Nazario Quiñones heard this afternoon the unanimous verdict of the jury that found him guilty on 28 of the 34 charges of presentation of false documents and electronic fraud that weighed against him.
The judges deliberated for seven and a half hours.
The seven men and six women who evaluated the evidence concluded that he was not guilty on five counts of filing false documents and one not guilty of wire fraud.
Nazario did not offer statements to the press about the verdict of the factual judges. He only anticipated that he will resign his seat in the Senate and that he will meet with the president of that legislative body, Thomas Rivera Schatz to discuss the matter.
María Domínguez, one of the four lawyers for the former mayor of Yauco, indicated that the motion for peremptory acquittal is still before the consideration of Judge Joseph Laplante.
The sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled. Domínguez indicated that it would take place in about four months. The now-convicted man is exposed to a 30-year prison sentence. Nazario will remain free on bail until the conclusion of the second trial against him, which has not yet been indicated.
The president of Puerto Rico’s Senate, also from the New Progress Party (referred to as PNP for it’s Spanish translation) has been an advocate of Abel Nazarrio’s to be equitted from the federal corruption charges. In his facebook account he demonstrated his disappointment for the judges deliberation through the following statement:
“Good evening Puerto Rico:
With great sadness and resignation, I receive the news of the determination made by a jury of Puerto Ricans finding comrade Abel Nazario guilty in most of the charges against him for events that occurred while he was Mayor of Yauco.
I regret that he, his family, his friends, but mainly the people of Puerto Rico, had to face this process that has been tortuous, regrettable and disappointing for everyone.
Now it is up to the Senate Ethics Committee to present its recommendations to the full Senate after the result in federal court. I trust that this recommendation will be in accordance with law and as soon as possible.
The trial lasted 12 days. Prosecutors Scott Anderson presented a total of 38 witnesses. While the defense, made up of lawyers Domínguez, Carlos Andreu, Javier Micheo and Edgar Vega, presented 16 witnesses, including the accused himself.
On September 12, 2018, a grand jury accused the former municipal executive for allegedly manufacturing or using false documents and committing electronic fraud from 2013 to 2016 while he was mayor of Yauco.
In May 2013, during a routine audit of municipality records, the Comptroller’s Office discovered that municipal employees had to work two volunteer hours per day. This irregularity was referred to the Wage and Hour Division of the Federal Department of Labor (WHD), which determined that this voluntary work requirement was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In February 2015, Nazario Quiñones signed a retroactive wage payment agreement with the WHD Wage and Hour Division in which he agreed to pay wages totaling $588,961.43 to 177 municipal employees. These retroactive payments included the period from August 1, 2012 to July 31, 2014.
The settlement listed each employee who was owed a salary, the amount owed to them, and the date each employee was to receive payment. The agreement allowed the municipality until February 2018 to complete the payments.
In August 2016, during the next routine audit of the Municipality’s records, the Comptroller’s Office learned that, although the employees had received payments of what they were owed under the agreement Yauco had reached with the WHD, the Municipality began to withhold regular employee wages. This without the knowledge or the consent of the WHD.
This new irregularity was referred to the Office of the Inspector General of the Labor Department in November 2016.
The legislator faces a second case for which he is accused of having had ghost employees to embezzle federal funds, which he allegedly diverted to pay for his political campaign and help other politicians in his party, whose support he would need to be elected and later aspire to the presidency of the Senate.
The co-defendants are: Edwin Torres Gutiérrez, Claribel Rodríguez Canchani, Humberto Pagán Sánchez, Kelvin Ortiz Vergara, Ramón Martes Negrón -who was running for mayor of Ciales in 2020-, Juan Rosario Núñez and Eric Rondón Rodríguez.