Puerto Rican Governor Faces 19 Counts

Manuel Ernesto Rivera, AP, March 27, 2008

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged Thursday with 19 counts in a campaign finance probe, including conspiracy to violate U.S. federal campaign laws and giving false testimony to the FBI.

The indictment also charged 12 others associated with Acevedo’s Popular Democratic Party as a result of a two-year grand jury investigation, acting U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said.

Acevedo, a superdelegate for the Democratic Party who has pledged to support Sen. Barack Obama, served in Washington as the island’s nonvoting delegate to Congress and was elected governor in 2004 after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform.

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The defendants in Puerto Rico, Washington and the Philadelphia area are accused of conspiring to illegally raise money to pay off Acevedo’s campaign debts from his campaigns in 2000 and 2002 to be the U.S. island territory’s nonvoting member of Congress.

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He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, Rodriguez said. Acevedo said he will turn himself in Friday morning.

At least five others named in the indictment were led in handcuffs into the U.S. federal building in San Juan early Thursday morning.

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The 55-page indictment alleges that Acevedo also personally helped a group of Philadelphia-area businessmen in their efforts to obtain Puerto Rican government contracts after they delivered illegal campaign contributions from their own staff and family members.

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