On Wednesday, the head of Puerto Rico’s District Attorney’s Office announced that Sen. Abel Nazario Quiñones was arrested and charged with wire fraud and making false statements in connection with programs that receive federal funds.
According to the indictment, from 2014 to 2016, Quiñones and seven other defendants conspired and agreed among themselves to embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud, or by other means, and intentionally misappropriate property under the care and custody of the municipality valued at more than $500,000, although this amount does not represent the total of the figure, explained Lymarie Llovet, spokeswoman for the federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, according to El Nuevo Día.
The accused was elected mayor of Yauco in 2000, and continued in office until December 2016. In August of that year, during a municipal audit, the Comptroller’s Office discovered that there were “irregular employees” paid by the municipality who never showed up for work or did so sporadically.
Shortly after his arrest, Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz called for Quiñones’s resignation.
“It is unfortunate for him and his family, but mainly for the people of Puerto Rico who observe with anguish events that undermine confidence in governmental institutions,” Rivera said in a press release.
However, Quiñones told reporters he would not resign because he is innocent.
“I’m not leaving. This is my home,” he said in a statement.
If convicted, the senator could face up to 20 years in prison. In September 2018 he was also arrested for irregular payments and then released on bail.
Quiñones is also known to be a fervent critic of U.S. President Donald Trump.
The progressive senator also backed Jeb Bush, who in the 2016 Republican primary described illegal immigration as “an act of love.”
Once Bush was out of the race, Quiñones said, “It’s time to unite all efforts behind a candidate in order to defeat Donald Trump.”
President Trump more than once declared that corruption is the order of the day on the U.S. island.
On the eve of Hurricane Dorian President Trump wrote on his Twitter @realdonaldtrump: “Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. Congress approved billions of dollars last time [during Hurricane Maria], more than anyplace else has ever gotten, and it is sent to Crooked Pols. No good!”
Most media also criticized President Trump for Puerto Ricans killed in Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in 2017.
However, Radio Isla published video footage of the humanitarian aid sent by the United States—10 full trailers—abandoned in an electoral office.
The images show food, medicine, and baby items intended for the island, covered in rodent feces or partially gnawed by rats and lizards.