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The Federal Court sentenced Julia Keeler to six months in prison and one year of house arrest

The Federal Court sentenced Julia Keeler to six months in prison and one year of house arrest

Today, Friday, the Federal Court issued a six-month prison sentence and one year house arrest against the former Minister of Education, Julia Keeler, for committing fraud while in office under the management of Ricardo Rossello.

Keeler, 48, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud. Corruption schemes in which he was involved indicate that he negotiated a subcontracting company with his assistant and transferred part of the property of Padre Ruffo School, in Santurci, in exchange for an apartment in the Ciudadela complex.

The prosecution recommended, as part of an agreement with the defendant’s defense, 6 months imprisonment and one year of release under house arrest, in addition to a fine of $21,000 compared to the benefits he obtained illegally.

“To the people of Puerto Rico, I would like to apologize for the pain and heartbreak caused by my actions as Minister of Education. Puerto Rican children are the smartest in the world and they deserve a better education system than ever before.”And Keeler gasped, when the judge asked him if he had anything to say to the court.

“I hope that now that I have pleaded guilty, attention can be directed to the young Puerto Ricans who have access to the resources they so much deserve and upon which the future of the island depends.”Keeler added.

The judge acknowledged that the convicted ex-secretary was sentenced to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000, but considered in her favour that she had pleaded guilty and expressed regret for her actions and that she lacked a history of violent crimes. During her supervised release, the former secretary will have to provide free community services.

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As a federal convict, she was barred from contracting with the Puerto Rican government and the United States in the future.

According to Criminal Information, Keleher promoted the subcontracting of an education assistant, through Colón & Ponce, and later through BDO Puerto Rico, inflating the value of those entities’ contracts with the agency, despite the fact that subcontracting was prohibited. In these original contracts.

Prosecutors showed that in July 2016, former governor candidate Manuel Cedri emailed Keeler to introduce him to PR employee, Marie Estella Cestero. When “Senior Executives of the Government of Puerto Rico” prevented him from hiring Cestero, Keleher asked Colón & Ponce Inc. Subcontracting her, he modified and increased the contract value from $43,550 to $93,550 to cover his salary with public funds.

What is more, The ex-secretary received a benefit from a real estate company owned by Ariel Gutierrez Rodriguez, in exchange for a relinquishment of 1,043 square feet of Padre Ruffo School land.. The alleged benefit included enjoying a $297,500 for $1 apartment through August 2018. However, Keeler continued to enjoy the apartment without paying the agreed monthly rent of $1,500 until her purchase on December 4, 2018.

The agreement included Keeler receiving a “reward” of $12,000 for the purchase of the apartment.

Gutierrez Rodriguez, a co-defendant in this case, is scheduled to stand trial by jury on February 15, 2022, because he refused to enter into an agreement to file a plea of ​​guilt. The pre-trial meeting is scheduled for February 1, 2022, according to the court’s case record.

Keeler initially faced 11 counts of conspiracy, electronic fraud, bribery and identity theft, but the indictments were limited to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, after agreement with the attorney general’s office.

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If no agreement is reached with the attorney general’s office, the former education minister has been subject to 20 years in prison on 11 counts indicted in July 2019.