Former Puerto Rico Legislative Assistant Sentenced for Bribery and Kickback Scheme

A former legislative assistant to a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives was sentenced today to three years and one month in prison for engaging in a scheme to accept a fraudulently inflated government salary in exchange for providing kickbacks to a legislator and the legislator’s family members.

According to court documents, from early 2013 until July 2020, Frances Acevedo-Ceballos, 35, of Carolina, served as a legislative assistant for María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano, also known as Tata, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. In early 2017, Charbonier-Laureano inflated Acevedo-Ceballos’ salary from $800 on a bi-weekly, after-tax basis to over $2,100. Acevedo-Ceballos’ bi-weekly, net government salary further increased to between $2,700 and $2,900 from the middle of 2017 until June 2020. Out of every inflated paycheck, it was agreed that Acevedo-Ceballos would keep a portion and pay kickbacks ranging between $1,000 and $1,500 to Charbonier-Laureano, Charbonier-Laureano’s husband, Orlando Montes-Rivera, and Charbonier-Laureano’s son, throughout the course of the scheme.

Acevedo-Ceballos pleaded guilty in November 2023 to bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.

In January, a federal jury convicted Charbonier-Laureano and Montes-Rivera of one count of conspiracy; two counts of theft, bribery, and kickbacks concerning programs receiving federal funds; six counts of honest services wire fraud; and two counts of money laundering. The jury also convicted Charbonier-Laureano of obstruction of justice for destroying data on her cell phone. Charbonier-Laureano and Montes-Rivera are scheduled to be sentenced on April 10. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri 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 Gonzalez of the FBI San Juan Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI San Juan Field Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Jonathan E. Jacobson and Kathryn E. Fifield of the Criminal Divion’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney María L. Montañez Concepción for the District of Puerto Rico prosecuted the case.

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