SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A current Puerto Rico Superior Court judge and Puerto Rico businessman have been charged with orchestrating a criminal scheme in which the businessman paid bribes to the judge presiding over the criminal case against the businessman, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.
“The outcome of a criminal case should be determined by the evidence and the law, not by paid-for bias,” said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “When citizens can’t have faith in the very people who are sworn to uphold the law, confidence in the entire system is shaken. We are committed to restoring that faith by rooting out corruption wherever it may be found.”
“A fair and impartial criminal justice system is one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico. “Judges, in particular, are expected to protect the public’s trust in the fairness of the judicial system. Investigations such as the one leading to today’s indictment are crucial to deter corrupt officials influenced by greed from breaking their oath to uphold the rule of law. This case should serve as a strong warning to those who might consider similar behavior. No one is above the law and everyone is accountable for their misdeeds.”
“Rogue justice as the one allegedly imparted by Judge Manuel Acevedo-Hernández will not be tolerated by the FBI,” said special agent in charge Carlos Cases of the FBI’s San Juan Division. “The FBI will continue vigorously to investigate allegations of corruption at all levels.”
The indictment, returned on Wednesday by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico and unsealed on Thursday, charges Manuel Acevedo-Hernandez, 62, and Lutgardo Acevedo-Lopez, 39, with conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. Acevedo-Hernandez was also charged with receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, and Acevedo-Lopez was charged with paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds.
According to the indictment, Acevedo-Hernandez, a supervisory superior court judge in the Aguadilla judicial region of Puerto Rico, allegedly accepted bribes from Acevedo-Lopez and others, knowing that the payments were made so that Acevedo-Hernandez would use his official position as a superior court judge for Acevedo-Lopez’s benefit. In particular, Acevedo-Hernandez presided over a criminal trial of Acevedo-Lopez and acquitted Acevedo-Lopez of all charges pending against him, including vehicular homicide. In exchange for the acquittal, Acevedo-Lopez, through an intermediary, bribed Acevedo-Hernandez by paying taxes owed by Acevedo-Hernandez, paying for construction of a garage, and providing him with a motorcycle, clothing and accessories, including cufflinks and a watch.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.