Former Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Arrested, Charged with Bribery

Former Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vázquez
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By Rafy Rivera, Melissa Alonso and Ray Sanchez, CNN

(CNN)Former Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vázquez was arrested Thursday in San Juan on bribery charges connected to the financing of her 2020 campaign, the US Justice Department says.

Vázquez is the first former governor to face federal charges. And the political scandal is the latest to shake an island still recovering nearly five years after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.

One of her attorneys, Peter John Porrata, told CNN Vazquez will plead not guilty to the charges. She was released on bond after a brief hearing Thursday.

“I am innocent and a great injustice has been committed, ” Vázquez told reporters after her release. “I have committed no crime.”

A one-time political consultant for Vázquez and the president of an international bank have pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme, according to a DOJ statement.

A former FBI agent and the owner of the international bank that operated in San Juan also participated in the alleged scheme, federal officials say.

From December 2019 through June 2020, the 62-year-old former governor allegedly conspired in a scheme to finance her gubernatorial campaign, according to the DOJ.

Vázquez allegedly received more than $300,000 from two businessmen to finance political consultants during her campaign, Stephen Muldrow, US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, told reporters Thursday.

Vazquez and others are charged with conspiracy, federal programs bribery and honest services wire fraud.

The ex-governor, who is named in three of seven counts in an indictment, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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