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Arrest of state police officer could affect nearly 70 pending cases

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Joshua Kellogg, Farmington Daily Times Published 3:58 p.m. MT July 6, 2018

Daniel Capehart(Photo: San Juan County Adult Detention Center)

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County District Attorney's Office is reviewing criminal cases involving an arrested New Mexico State Police officer, a situation that could lead to nearly 70 cases being dismissed.

Daniel Capehart, 33, of Bloomfield, is accused of federal drug charges for distribution of methamphetamine and distribution of marijuana, according to court documents.

He was arrested on June 29 at the Farmington office of the New Mexico State Police and placed on administrative leave.

The DA's Office is reviewing 68 pending cases in which Capehart is listed as a witness, according to chief deputy district attorney Dustin O'Brien.

Capehart is accused of stealing drugs that were seized and distributing them to women with whom he had sexual relationships or was pursuing romantically, according to the criminal complaint.

He allegedly made two deliveries of marijuana to law enforcement officials investigating the case on June 21 and 23. Representatives of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office impersonated a 16-year-old female Capehart allegedly sent flirtatious text messages to as part of the investigation.

The juvenile female allegedly started receiving the messages following a June 15 traffic stop by Capehart during which he asked for personal information, including her date of birth, email address and phone number.

The suspect also allegedly took methamphetamine that had been seized during an undercover operation by the FBI on June 28 and left 5.7 grams of meth near a Bloomfield park bathroom for a confidential source, according to court documents.

Most of the 68 pending criminal cases in which Capehart is a witness are related to DWI charges, along with some drug- and traffic-related cases, O'Brien said.

Due to the nature of DWI cases — in which there often is only one officer involved in the traffic stop and arrest — O'Brien believes the DA's Office will be unsuccessful in prosecuting those cases.

The DA's Office is looking for cases in which another officer was involved or there is evidence such as video footage to prosecute cases affected by Capehart's arrest.

"I would imagine a large number of those cases will be dismissed," O'Brien said.

With Capehart in federal custody in a halfway house in Bernalillo County, the DA's Office is not able to transport him back and forth to San Juan County, even if prosecutors were willing to have him testify.

Attorney Steve Murphy of the Titus and Murphy Law Firm said law enforcement officials should be honorable and do the right thing. He added his firm is conducting a review of any cases Capehart was involved with to see if there are potential issues with clients who retained the law firm for pending criminal cases.

"I anticipate there will be cases dismissed," Murphy said.

O'Brien described Capehart's case as unusual and very rare.

The DA's Office faced a case similar situation when former Farmington Police Department evidence technician Ashley Goodvoyce was convicted in October 2014 of the theft of drugs and cash from the department's evidence room, O'Brien said.

She was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, but Judge John Dean Jr. suspended the sentence, ordering Goodvoyce to serve five years of probation, according to The Daily Times archives.

At least four drug-related cases were dismissed due to the evidence tampering, according to The Daily Times archives.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

More: NM State Police officer accused of federal drug charges

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Douglas Leff - Google Search

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Seven Puerto Rico police officers charged with Rico Act violations

Caribbean Business-Jul 19, 2018
... of the leadership of the Puerto Rico Police Department,” added Douglas Leff, special agent in charge of FBI, San Juan, which is in charge of the investigation.
Story image for Douglas Leff from The San Diego Union-Tribune
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Puerto Rican mayor and other officials arrested on corruption charges

NationofChange-Jul 7, 2018
Anyone who violates that trust will be brought to justice, because the citizens of Puerto Rico deserve no less,” stated Douglas Leff, Special Agent in Charge of ...
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FBI arresta al alcalde de Sabana Grande por fraude a Educación federal

El Nuevo <a href="http://Dia.com" rel="nofollow">Dia.com</a>-Jul 5, 2018
... en las cuenta municipales con fondos federales en las áreas de vivienda y salud, según reveló en ese entones el director del FBI en la isla, Douglas Leff.
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Carmen Yulín 2020 y el efecto Caldero

El Vocero de Puerto Rico-Jun 19, 2018
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Federales preparan arrestos de políticos

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Seven Puerto Rico police officers charged with Rico Act violations – Caribbean Business

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SAN JUAN – Seven Puerto Rico police officers from the Caguas Drug Unit (CDU) have been charged in a superseding indictment for their alleged participation in criminal acts, announced U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico.

On May 21, four police officers assigned to the Caguas unit were charged by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico for drug trafficking and firearms violations. On Thursday, they, along with three other officers were charged in a superseding indictment under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act).

“From in or about July 2014 the defendants together with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, being persons employed by and associated with the CDU, an enterprise engaged in, and the activities of which affected, interstate and foreign commerce, knowingly and unlawfully conducted and participated, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a release.

The defendants “violated the legitimate purposes of the CDU in order to enrich themselves through illegal conduct, including extortion, robbery, and the distribution of narcotics,” referring to marijuana, according to the release.

The defendants face up to 20 years for the RICO Act violations, 20 years for extortion under official rights, up to five years for drug trafficking violations, and five years up to life in prison for the firearms charges–if found guilty.

“The purpose of the Caguas Drug Unit is to combat drug trafficking, firearms and ammunition trafficking, among other related crimes, and these officers were behaving like the criminals they were supposed to be apprehending. They not only betrayed the citizens they were sworn to protect, they also betrayed the thousands of honest, hard-working law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to keep us safe. We will continue to work with our local law enforcement partners to pursue corruption wherever it lies,” Rodríguez-Vélez said.

“Today’s charges represent a grave breach of the oath taken by these sworn officers. Fortunately, those accused represent only a very small percentage of the brave men and women of the Puerto Rico Police Department, who serve only to protect the citizens of Puerto Rico. In fact, the FBI’s continued efforts to clean up corruption and civil rights violations have been assisted by the full cooperation of the leadership of the Puerto Rico Police Department,” added Douglas Leff, special agent in charge of FBI, San Juan, which is in charge of the investigation.

Justice Department sends 6 new prosecutors to Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rican mayor and other officials arrested on corruption charges

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Recently indicted on charges including theft of government money and fraud, a mayor in Puerto Rico has been accused of illegally using nearly $3 million in federal funds from contracts fraudulently obtained from the Puerto Rico Department of Education. In a separate unrelated indictment, the former directors of finance for the northern town of Toa Baja were accused of using nearly $5 million in federal funds.

According to the indictment, Miguel Ortiz-Vélez, mayor of the municipality of Sabana Grande, conspired with Irving Riquel Torres-Rodríguez, former owner of Environmental and Sports Consultants Corp. (AESC), to fraudulently obtain federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education and Puerto Rico Department of Education. Torres-Rodríguez has previously pled guilty in two different cases, including theft of government property and money laundering.

Between 2013 and 2016, Ortiz-Vélez allegedly defrauded the federal government of nearly $3 million by misrepresenting the costs of government contracts. During that period, he received tens of thousands of dollars in cash kickbacks from AESC and Torres-Rodríguez.

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced Ortiz-Vélez has been charged with two counts for theft of government money and property, one count for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, two substantive counts of mail fraud, and one count for money laundering. He is also facing forfeiture allegations and a potential money judgment of $2,904,920.00, the value of the two contracts fraudulently obtained from the Puerto Rico Department of Education.

In the second indictment, Victor Cruz-Quintero, former Director of Finance, and Ángel Santos-García, former interim Director of Finance of the Municipality of Toa Baja, were charged with theft, conversion, and misappropriation of funds from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS). In October 2014, Victor Cruz-Quintero allegedly took more than $2.5 million in federal funds from HUD and later made additional transfers for unauthorized purposes from HHS and HUD totaling over $1.7 million between September 2014 and February 2016.

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While serving as Toa Baja’s former interim finance director, Ángel Santos-García made similar transfers of federal funds from HHS and HUD for unauthorized purposes totaling $650,000 from three separate transactions.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced the two former directors of finance had been charged with theft, conversion, and misappropriation of funds from HHS and HUD. If convicted, the defendants could face possible sentences of up to 10 years for theft of government funds, misappropriation of federal program funds, and money laundering, and up to 20 years for mail fraud, and the wire and mail fraud conspiracy.

“Mayor Miguel G. Ortiz-Vélez deceived the public’s trust and used his public office to fraudulently obtain federal funds in order to supplement the finances of the municipality of Sabana Grande,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “Corruption and fraud at any level of government betrays the ideals upon which our democracy is built. In regards with the investigation in Toa Baja, we will continue to follow the evidence in order to determine if other municipal officials were involved in the fraudulent scheme announced today.”

“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,” stated Douglas Leff, Special Agent in Charge of FBI, San Juan.

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Misleading story links San Juan mayor to hurricane relief fraud

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"Puerto Rico mayor facing fraud charges over $3M in federal disaster relief"

Bloggers on Sunday, July 15th, 2018 in a blog post


By Katie Akin on Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 3:36 p.m.

A headline on an online story says, "Puerto Rico mayor facing fraud charges over $3M in federal disaster relief."

The article includes a photo of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, wearing a shirt with "NASTY" printed in large block letters. This photo is taken from a television appearance following Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico in September 2017.

Cruz was a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, accusing him of providing insufficient aid to the island.

On Facebook, the story's link preview shows Cruz’s face above the headline. But she has not been accused of fraud related to hurricane relief.

The article, published July 15 on Your News Wire, reveals that Cruz isn’t facing charges at all. A different Puerto Rican mayor was accused. (Fact-checkers at The Weekly Standard caught that the initial version of the story said that Cruz and her party faced charges, but the language had been changed by the time we looked at it. Some versions of the story copied elsewhere had not made the change.)

We decided to dig a little deeper and see what else might be misleading about this story.

Wrong mayor

The mayor facing fraud charges is Miguel Ortiz-Vélez of Sabana Grande. Federal authorities have accused him of running a three-year scheme, beginning in 2013 and ending in 2016, to defraud the government of $3 million. Ortiz-Vélez proposed projects to the Puerto Rico Department of Education, but intentionally overestimated their cost.

He gave the extra money to the companies he contracted out for the work, as well as to the city. The owner of one of the companies reimbursed Ortiz-Vélez nearly $23,000 in cash.

Ortiz-Vélez was indicted on July 2 for theft of government money, mail fraud, and money laundering. If he is found guilty, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

Close, but no cigar

The article on Your News Wire mixes the alleged Ortiz-Vélez scheme with another case of fraud in Puerto Rico. Two finance directors in Tao Baja were accused of misusing federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Your News Wire story implies that this money was meant as hurricane relief funds, calling it "assistance funds" that were given "during the same general time frame as the disaster."

This scheme took place from 2014 until early 2016, long before Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The money was meant to be used for promoting economic development and building new public facilities. Instead, the finance directors put the funds toward paying municipal employees and contractors.

This investigation is ongoing, and, again, separate from the investigation into Ortiz-Vélez.

A lawsuit

There have been allegations against Cruz as well, which some outlets have connected to misuse of federal disaster relief funds. In February 2018, a former government worker sued the municipality of San Juan. She claims that the city was committing fraud by paying some contractors far more than others. She also claims she was demoted for speaking out against the corruption.  

A local San Juan paper reported that, according to two unnamed sources, the FBI has opened an investigation into the alleged fraud. However, the plaintiff of the suit resigned in June 2017, before Hurricane Maria. The suit does not include any mention of federal disaster aid.

Our ruling

The article said, "Puerto Rico Mayor Facing Fraud Charges Over $3M In Federal Disaster Relief."

The article was styled to make it seem that Cruz, the vocal San Juan mayor, was responsible for the fraud. The entire first half of the article focuses on her liberal politics and her objections to Trump, rather than any specific crimes. All of this is severely misleading.

The reporting on the underlying fraud itself is bungled. It has nothing to do with "federal disaster relief." The story mixes up two unrelated cases of fraud stemming from Puerto Rico that took place over a year before Maria struck.

We rate the statement False.

"Puerto Rico mayor facing fraud charges over $3M in federal disaster relief"

blog posts – Sunday, July 15, 2018

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed referendum in Ukraine

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The White House on Friday had to douse another political fire resulting from the Helsinki summit after a Russian official said Vladimir Putin and President Trump discussed a possible referendum in eastern Ukraine during their private powwow.

Russia’s ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said Friday that the two leaders had discussed the possibility of a referendum in separatist-leaning eastern Ukraine.

“This issue (of a referendum) was discussed,” Antonov said, adding without specifics that Putin made “concrete proposals” to Trump on solutions for the four-year Ukraine conflict, which has killed over 10,000 people.

Trump has tweeted that he and Putin discussed Ukraine, but did not mention a referendum or provide details.

The proposal would sidestep European peace efforts and increase pressure on the Ukrainian government in its battle with the pro-Russian separatists.

Hours after Antonov spoke, the White House shot down the idea, saying the Trump administration “is not considering supporting” such a referendum.

National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said agreements between Russia and Ukraine for resolving the conflict in the Donbass region “do not include any option for referendum.”

Marquis added that any effort to organize a “so-called referendum” would have “no legitimacy.”

The US and Russia have been on opposing sides of the conflict in Ukraine, unleashed after a popular uprising against a pro-Russian president and Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Meanwhile, the White House laid out the agenda for a second summit between Trump and Putin in the fall in Washington that would focus on national security concerns.

A White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity did not specify if that included Russia’s interference in US elections. The official said the talks also would cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

Moscow signaled openness to another meeting between the two leaders, as Trump continued to face criticism over his first meeting with his Russian counterpart in Helsinki, where he seemed to accept Putin’s denials of meddling in the 2016 election — despite findings by US intelligence services.

Amid the enduring firestorm, Trump later claimed he misspoke during one exchange with reporters in Finland.

Trump tweeted Thursday that he looked forward another meeting with Putin and defended his performance at Monday’s summit, in which the two leaders discussed several issues including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea.

“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems … but they can ALL be solved!” Trump tweeted.

In Moscow, Antonov said it was important to “deal with the results” of their first summit before jumping too fast into a new one.

But, he added, “Russia was always open to such proposals. We are ready for discussions on this subject.”

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