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Progressive Puerto Rican Lawmaker Pleads Guilty To Bribery and Kickback Scheme

Nelson del Valle Colón is a Puerto Rican politician affiliated with the New Progressive Party. He was a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives from 2005 to 2008 and is the current representative of District 9. Has a degree in business administration from the Metropolitan University.

Colon, a former Puerto Rico legislator and two employees who worked in his office pleaded guilty this week to engaging in a bribery and kickback scheme.

According to court documents, Nelson Del Valle Colon, 56, of Dorado, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of federal program bribery, and Mildred Estrada-Rojas, 55, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and her daughter, Nickolle Santos-Estrada, 32, also of Bayamon, each pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of federal program bribery.

Del Valle Colon was elected to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives in 2016 and hired Estrada and Santos to work in his legislative office. In exchange for their employment and their salaries, Estrada and Santos paid biweekly kickbacks to Del Valle Colon of between approximately $500 and $1,300 from early 2017 until July 2020.

Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain from 1493 to 1898, when it passed to be a colonial possession of the United States and classified by the United States as “an unincorporated territory”, the new progressive party is focused on becoming the 51st state of the United States of America, an idea that has bi-partisan support from US Congress.

NBC reported on Puerto Ricco recently and how their statehood might change US elections:

As the election plays out, the divisive issue of Puerto Rico’s status is also creating some fractures within activist groups.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. Although all Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, those who live on the island cannot vote in U.S. congressional or presidential elections. The territory’s representative in Congress — called a resident commissioner — cannot vote on legislation on the floor.

Puerto Ricans are divided among those who want statehood and those who prefer the current territorial status; a smaller percentage want Puerto Rico to be independent. Previous votes on the issue in Puerto Rico have been rife with controversy.

According to the Department of Justice:

According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, Del Valle Colon, Estrada, and Santos paid the kickbacks in a variety of ways. Estrada and Santos generally paid cash in an envelope that they provided to Del Valle Colon in an office in the Capitol Building in Old San Juan. Estrada also sometimes paid Del Valle Colon over ATH Móvil, a mobile phone cash transfer application. Another individual who worked for Del Valle Colon in his legislative office also agreed to pay Del Valle Colon biweekly cash kickbacks during that individual’s employment with Del Valle Colon.

Del Valle Colon is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30, and Estrada and Santos are scheduled to be sentenced on June 29. Each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. 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 González of the FBI’s San Juan Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI’s San Juan Field Office is investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Jonathan E. Jacobson of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Anderson from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico are prosecuting the case.

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