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Friday, June 23, 2017

Puerto Rico Events For This Weekend


















Friday, June 23


Noche de San Juan

@ beaches across Puerto Rico

Traditional festival honoring Saint John. Revelers celebrate at the beach after dusk and jump "back first" into the ocean at midnight for good luck. Police presence is expected at most major beaches throughout the night. Avoid out of the way or poorly attended locations.


Inflalandia

@ Puerto Rico Convention Center, San Juan

Family-oriented event with bouncehouses, virtual reality games, sporting events, shows and other attractions geared towards children. Runs Friday and Saturday.

$15-$20 plus service charges


Saturday, June 24


Ceviche & Seafood Fest

@ Bahia Urbana, Pier 6, San Juan

Several restaurants offer tastings of their seafood dishes with prices ranging from $3-$5. Live music will be available.

$15 plus tax


Caribbean Exotic Pets Expo

@ Parque Ecuestre Trujillo Alto

The event bills itself as the largest exhibition of exotic animals in the Caribbean. Exhibits, artisans, vendors and seminars on animal care will be available, along with food and refreshments for sale.

Free admission.


Sunday, June 25


Ventana Al Jazz

@ Bahia Urbana, Pier 6, San Juan

Enjoy live jazz in a family friendly setting every last Sunday of the month. Chairs and coolers are allowed. Runs from 5-9 PM.

Free admission


LGBTIQ Pride Parade

@ Parque Del Indio, Condado, San Juan

March begins at 11:00 AM and will end at Tercer Milenio Park in Old San Juan, where entertainment will be provided.

Free admission.




Thursday, June 22, 2017

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ex Secretary Of Sports And Recreation Indicted For Receiving Kickbacks, Fraud & Money Laundering



Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Press Release

Six other individuals also charged in the $9.8 million conspiracy

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico– Ramón Orta, former Secretary of the Department of Sports and Recreation (PR DRD), his Special Assistant Edgardo Vazquez-Morales, and four other individuals have been indicted and arrested for their participation in a conspiracy to steal federal funds involving fraudulently obtained contracts from the PR Department of Education (PR DOE) and the PR Public Housing Authority (PR PHA), announced U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico. Orta and Vázquez-Morales were also charged for soliciting and receiving multiple kickback payments from a seventh defendant pertaining to DRD’s lease of a facility in Guayama, Puerto Rico. The United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, is handling the investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General.
The indictment returned yesterday, June 20, 2017, by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico, includes 50 counts against the following individuals:
  1. Ramón Orta-Rodríguez, the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Sports and Recreation (PR DRD) from January 2013 until December 2016;
  2. Edgardo Vázquez-Morales, the Special Assistant to Ramón Orta-Rodríguez from January 2013 until December 2016;
  3. Oscar Rodríguez-Torres, President of Rosso Group, Inc.;
  4. Miguel Sosa-Suárez, owner of Global Sports Initiative, LLC (“Global”);
  5. Irving Riquel Torres-Rodríguez, President of Administrative, Environmental and Sports Consultants Corp. (“AESC”);
  6. Cecilia Amador-López, wife of defendant Riquiel-Torres; submitted proposals to PR DOE
  7. Juan Carlos Ortiz-Nieves, owner of Sports Consultants Inc.

The companies involved in the conspiracy are:
  1. Rosso Group Inc. (“Rosso”), created to fund projects awarded by Orta-Rodríguez as Secretary of the PR DRD. From 2013 to 2016, Rosso received approximately $8,767,446.52 from PR DRD.
  2. Global Sports Initiative, LLC (“Global”), was a domestic non-profit corporation managed by Sosa-Suárez; engaged in managing, organizing, and promoting boxing events in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Global received approximately $500,000 during the conspiracy.
  3. Administrative, Environmental and Sports Consultants Corp. (“AESC”), a for-profit corporationIrving Riquel Torres-Rodríguez was the president and treasurer of AESC from 2010 until 2012, and in 2015. AESC received $554,246.89 from Rosso.
  4. Sports Consultants Inc., a for-profit corporation incorporated by Juan Carlos Ortiz-Nieves; the company received in excess of $70,000 from Estate A to make kickback payments to Orta and Vázquez.
  5. Estate A (an estate with multiple members, including defendant Ortiz-Nieves) owns property in Guayama, Puerto Rico. In 2015, Ortiz-Nieves negotiated a lease agreement on behalf of Estate A for the PR DRD to utilize a portion of the land and building as a sports and recreation facility with a five-year term at $14,500 per month.
    According to the indictment, the defendants used Orta-Rodríguez’ position as Secretary of PR DRD to benefit and enrich themselves and defraud the United States as follows:
  • Orta-Rodríguez utilized his position as Secretary of PR DRD to solicit federal funds from the PR DOE and PR PHA based on material misrepresentations regarding PR DRD’s ability to perform the activities and the scope of the activities subject to the proposals. Orta-Rodríguez, as Secretary of PR DRD, entered into contracts with Rosso, for the administration of various projects funded with federal monies. Rosso did not participate in any competitive bidding or evaluation process for the award of these contracts, which totaled $10,510,460. The services were supposed to be rendered by PR DRD, pursuant to its contracts with the PR DOE and PR PHA.
  • The PR DRD-Rosso contracts were inflated to provide net proceeds to Rosso, which were later distributed amongst co-conspirators. The co-conspirators split approximately $3.9 million in net profits from the PR DOE contracts. Orta-Rodríguez obtained net proceeds of approximately $799,740 for PR DRD on one education project. Orta-Rodríguez also disbursed $200,000 in discretionary funds to other co-conspirators to operate and promote boxing events through Global.
  • DRD contracted the services of ROSSO to provide television programming services for one television show about public housing projects in Puerto Rico. SOSA agreed with the individual who provided the services, to inflate the invoices for those services and to produce a second television show, DRD.TV, for the DRD. In 2015, SOSA was paid the difference between the actual cost of the production of both shows and the inflated invoice cost, which was paid from HUD funds. In 2016, ROSSO was paid this difference. DRD was also able to use federal funding for the DRD.TV show, which was outside the scope of the federal funding. SOSA was paid $311,345.30 on the HUD contracts by the television producer. ROSSO was paid $237,609.12 by the producer on the HUD contracts. The total amount misapplied by ORTA and excessively paid on the HUD contract (including the DRD.TV show) was approximately $1,216,650. Federal funds fraudulently obtained by members of the conspiracy were utilized for business ventures, travel, and to make purchases for political campaigns and political parties.
  • Orta-Rodríguez executed a five-year lease agreement with Estate A for $14,500 which was in excess of the $8,500 price proposed by Ortiz-Nieves. Ortiz-Nieves created Sports Consulting and caused the transfer of funds from Estate A to Sports Consulting so that cash withdrawals could be made to pay Orta-Rodríguez and Vázquez-Morales the kickback payments generated from the $6,000 difference of the lease agreement. Approximately $26,000 was paid, in cash, as kickbacks to Orta-Rodríguez and Vázquez-Morales.
    The indictment also includes the following substantive charges: nine counts of wire fraud; two counts of mail fraud; five counts of aggravated identity theft; and twenty-seven counts of money laundering.
    “Public corruption continues to erode the trust between government officials and our citizens. Defendant Ramón Orta, along with his coconspirators, exploited his government position to rob Puerto Rican taxpayers of more than $10 million,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “As Secretary of the DRD, Orta was entrusted with performing his duties honestly and ethically. The charged offenses are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. I commend the commitment of the agents, financial analysts, and prosecutors whose tireless work made these arrests possible.”
    “These defendants knowingly and willfully abused their positions of trust for personal gain. That is unacceptable,” said Aaron Jordan, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations at the U.S. Department of Education. “I want to commend the OIG Special agents and our law enforcement colleagues whose efforts brought about today’s actions and helped stop such calculated plunder. The OIG will continue to aggressively pursue those who misappropriate Federal education funds for their own selfish purposes. Our students and taxpayers deserve nothing less.”
    “The public must be able to trust the officials who are put in charge of government funds. Anyone who violates that trust will be brought to justice, because the citizens of Puerto Rico deserve no less. The FBI is proud to share this commitment with its partners from the United States Attorney's Office, and the Inspectors General for the Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development,” stated Douglas Leff, Special Agent in Charge of FBI, San Juan.
    “Our core mission is to investigate cases where there is evidence of waste, fraud and abuse involving H.U.D. programs. It is through the collective law enforcement effort present here today that we are able to ensure the integrity of those programs and to pursue those that would use them for personal gain,” stated Nicholas Padilla, Jr., Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General.
    The case is being investigated by the United States Department of Education Office of Inspector General in conjunction with the FBI’s San Juan Division and the United States Department of House and Urban Development Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Erbe. If found guilty, the defendants are facing possible sentences of up to 10 years for conspiracy, theft of government funds, and bribery, and up to 20 years for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
    The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Puerto Rico News Digest For June 20, 2017














CANNABIS DISPENSARY OPENS IN OCEAN PARK


"A new health and wellness alternative, the b.well Healing Center, opened its doors in the area of  Condado and Ocean Park becoming the first medical cannabis dispensary in San Juan. The facility,  which entailed a $300,000 investment, will offer medicinal cannabis treatments..."


GOVERNOR SEEKS TO CUT ELECTORAL FUND MONEY

From The San Juan Daily Star:

"Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced Monday that he sent a bill to the Legislative Assembly that eliminates the governmental contribution to the Electoral Fund, from which the political parties draw monies to pay administrative expenses..."


SENATE TO CONSIDER GENDER EQUALITY IN SCHOOLS

From Caribbean Business:

"Despite opposition from New Progressive Party (NPP) senators to the bill that proposes to implement  education with gender perspective in Puerto Rico’s public school system, the bill will be voted on  this week, Senate Majority Leader Carmelo Ríos said..."


PR DECLARES HOMESCHOOLING A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT

From HSLDA:

"Puerto Rico is now the first among U.S. states and territories to recognize homeschooling as a fundamental right, thanks to a law signed by Governor Ricardo Rossello Nevares on June 7..."


Friday, May 5, 2017

Puerto Rico Activities For This Weekend



























Friday, May 5

Playarte Nights

Boardriders Surf Bar holds this arts and culture event the first Friday of every month at La Pared beach. Live music, artisans and other presentations.

Where: La Pared beach, Herminio Diaz Navarro Street, Luquillo
When: 7 PM - 12 AM
Admission: Free


Pineapple Festival

Chefs from restaurants around La Parguera present pineapple-based dishes. Live music and vendors will also be available. A 5k run will take place Saturday. Festival runs all weekend.

Where: La Parguera, Lajas
When: 9 AM - 11 PM
Admission: Free



Saturday,  May 6

La 18: Art & Gastronomy on Wheels

Fair featuring visual arts, design and several food trucks. Runs Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, San Juan
When: 11 AM - 9 PM
Admission: Free


Guajataca Carnival

Live entertainment, float parade, carnival rides, vendors. Runs from Friday to Sunday.

Where: Pedro Hernández Basketball Arena parking lot, Quebradillas
When: 7 PM - 12 AM
Admission: Free



Sunday, May 7

Expomecanika 2017

Convention for those interested in the building or repair of motor vehicles, aircraft or boats

Where: Puerto Rico Convention Center, Guamaní Street, San Juan
When: 9 AM - 6 PM
Admission: Free


Urban Market at Ventana Al Mar

Farmer's market featuring local produce and food products taking place in Condado.

Where: 1054 Ashford Avenue, San Juan
When: 9 AM - 5 PM
Admission: Free



The Puerto Rico Monitor cannot take responsibility for the accuracy of the  above listings. They are based on the best information available at the time of writing.




For more information on visiting Puerto Rico, read The Real Deal Guide to Puerto Rico, only $3.59 in e-book format!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Puerto Rico News Digest For May 3, 2017


BANKRUPTCY!


GOVERNOR SAYS PR TO SEEK TITLE III PROTECTION



















Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced at a press conference this morning that he has notified the Fiscal  Control Board of the intention of the Puerto Rican government to trigger Title III of the PROMESA federal law, a move similar to bankruptcy, in order to safeguard essential government services and payroll. The announcement comes in the wake of the expiration on May 1 of the island government's immunity to lawsuits related to its staggering debt load. Bondholder groups have already sued the government since the deadline passed. Governor Rosselló expressed his willingness to continue a dialogue with bondholders, and stated that the Title III decision was made because it would be "the way to defend the main interests of the people of Puerto Rico." He also declared that the Board had received the government's petition and would act on it "immediately".



PROTESTER ARRESTED FOR POPULAR CENTER VANDALISM


From US Attorney's Office:

"Today, United States Magistrate Judge Silvia Carreño-Coll authorized a criminal complaint against Nina Droz Franco, charging her for damaging or attempting to damage by means of fire a building engaged in  activity affecting interstate commerce[...]During the course of the protest [on Monday] on Ponce de Leon  Street, numerous individuals vandalized the Popular Center building...after several individuals broke windows of the building, two individuals approached one of the broken windows and attempted to light a  fire. Specifically, a female and a male approached one of the broken windows and lit a flame. All of these  events were captured on video[...]Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Alum is in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the penalties Droz Franco is facing are a minimum term of imprisonment of five years, and a maximum term of 20 years, a supervised release term of not more than 3 years, and a fine not to exceed $250,000..."



GUAYNABO MAYOR CASE TO SPECIAL PROSECUTOR


From The San Juan Daily Star:

"The island Justice Department recommended on Monday the assignment of a special prosecutor to investigate  possible corruption related to a sexual harassment complaint involving Guaynabo Mayor Héctor O’Neill. After completing a preliminary investigation, Justice concluded that the longtime mayor could have committed  a total of 20 violations of the law[...]According to previous Star reports, after a female Guaynabo municipal police officer filed a sexual harassment complaint against the mayor, a monetary agreement was reached in  which O’Neill payed $300,000 to the woman and $150,000 to the woman’s partner..."


GOV'T PUBLISHES NEW OFFER FOR GO CREDITORS


From Caribbean Business:

"The government of Puerto Rico presented Monday a new debt restructuring offer, individually, to general obligations (GOs) creditors. The counteroffer reduces to 30% the suggested cut to principal, known as  haircut, to the debt guaranteed by the commonwealth’s constitution. The government offered about 50 cents on the dollar in its first proposal. However, the government has yet to reach an agreement with its creditors..."



Monday, May 1, 2017

Puerto Rico News Digest For May 1, 2017

MAY DAY! 

ENRAGED PROTESTERS VENT THEIR ANGER





















Photo by @Tatymailine

As part of the massive general strike which was called for May 1st, scores of citizens took to to the streets across Puerto Rico today -- mainly in the San Juan metro area -- to protest the brutal austerity measures sought by the Financial Control Board and the administration of Governor Rossello, as they deal with the island's debt crisis. Labor, academic, religious, feminist, student and other groups took part in the demonstrations, which took place at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, La Fortaleza in Old San Juan, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and other locations. At the latter, protesters blocked the entrance to the airport early this morning. Several of the marches around San Juan converged around noon at Hato Rey's "Milla de Oro" financial district, where some protests turned violent. Many protesters converged in front of the Seaborne Building, where the Financial Control Board is based. Several buildings in the area were vandalized, with Banco Popular's building taking the brunt of it, as protesters threw rocks, broke glass and had confrontations with building security staff. Police dispersed protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets.




















Photo by @carlaamarie


Later in the afternoon, Plaza Las Americas closed the mall's parking facilities as a safety measure. On nearby Roosevelt Avenue, protesters blocked the road with large stones and other debris, while on Muñoz Rivera Avenue, someone started a small fire in a lane of traffic. Some individuals on Muñoz Rivera refused to vacate the roadway despite the Police's barrage of gas and rubber bullets. SWAT teams, along with regular Police, had been deployed all over the area throughout the day. Various businesses in Hato Rey, including a CVS pharmacy, shut down due to the situation. Some of them were vandalized with graffiti or had their windows broken. Rocks were also thrown through the windows of the old headquarters of the New Progressive Party. Close to 5 PM, Police were able to retake Muñoz Rivera Avenue, after several arrests were made. At around this time, Governor Rossello took part in a press conference at La Fortaleza, in which he condemned the "violent incidents".


CONTROL BOARD MOVES TO DISSOLVE BGF 


From The San Juan Daily Star:

"The federal Financial Oversight and Management Board determined to phase out the Government Development Bank (GDB) during a meeting Friday in New York City[...]The board, created under the bipartisan Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability (PROMESA) Act, summoned GDB President Christian Sobrino to the meeting, who explained the fiscal scenario faced by the island government’s main lenderThe fiscal plan approved by the board for the GDB will basically wind down the bank’s operations over 10 years. Sobrino said the GDB is heading toward its demise, as it does not exhibit a “sustainable” fiscal outlook..."