A former Puerto Rico legislator and two employees who worked in his office pleaded guilty this week to engaging in a bribery and kickback scheme.
According to court documents, Nelson Del Valle Colon, 56, of Dorado, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of federal program bribery, and Mildred Estrada-Rojas, 55, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and her daughter, Nickolle Santos-Estrada, 32, also of Bayamon, each pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of federal program bribery.
Del Valle Colon was elected to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives in 2016 and hired Estrada and Santos to work in his legislative office. In exchange for their employment and their salaries, Estrada and Santos paid biweekly kickbacks to Del Valle Colon of between approximately $500 and $1,300 from early 2017 until July 2020.
According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, Del Valle Colon, Estrada, and Santos paid the kickbacks in a variety of ways. Estrada and Santos generally paid cash in an envelope that they provided to Del Valle Colon in an office in the Capitol Building in Old San Juan. Estrada also sometimes paid Del Valle Colon over ATH Móvil, a mobile phone cash transfer application. Another individual who worked for Del Valle Colon in his legislative office also agreed to pay Del Valle Colon biweekly cash kickbacks during that individual’s employment with Del Valle Colon.
Del Valle Colon is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30, and Estrada and Santos are scheduled to be sentenced on June 29. Each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico, and Special Agent in Charge Joseph González of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI’s San Juan Field Office is investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Jonathan E. Jacobson of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Anderson from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.