Global News

This article first appeared in Prensa Latina on June 2021.

Former Education Minister Julia Keleher, a key member of the administration of ousted Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico, it was announced today.

As part of an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Keleher accepted her guilt before Judge Francisco Besosa, as part of an agreement reached on May 21.

The agreement with the prosecution, equivalent to six months in prison, one year of house arrest and another year of supervised release, must be approved by Judge Besosa, who, within his powers, may not accept it or may modify it.

Keleher faces up to 10 years in prison for the conspiracy and bribery charges and another 20 years for wire fraud.

The former education minister, who faces two corruption cases, from 2019 and 2020, was present at the hearing from Philadelphia in a court hearing via videoconference system and accepted the agreement reached by her defense, led by former U.S. Attorney María Domínguez, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In the 2020 grand jury indictment, Keleher was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and bribery.

The former official, using her power as Puerto Rico’s education minister, sought to enrich herself by soliciting and accepting items of value in exchange for others, and for others to enrich themselves by obtaining privileges.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) detailed then that Keleher ceded to the owner of the firm Trillion Realty Group, Ariel Gutiérrez Rodríguez, 1,34 square feet of the Padre Rufo school, in the capital’s Santurce sector, in exchange for financial benefits in connection with her lease and purchase of an apartment in the Ciudadela’ housing complex.

The former minister had also been indicted in 2019 by a federal grand jury -along with five other people- on 32 charges related to a wire fraud scheme, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy for just over $15 million.