Puerto Rico Legislator And Her Husband Sentenced For Theft, Bribery, Kickback

María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano

A Puerto Rico legislator and her husband faced sentencing on May 17 for their involvement in a complex scheme involving theft, bribery, and kickbacks spanning several years.

María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano, known as Tata, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, received an eight-year prison sentence, while her husband, Orlando Montes-Rivera, was sentenced to four years and nine months.

Court documents and trial evidence revealed that from early 2017 to July 2020, Charbonier-Laureano, Montes-Rivera, and their assistant, Frances Acevedo-Ceballos, orchestrated a fraudulent scheme aimed at inflating the salary of Acevedo-Ceballos, a legislative assistant.

The scheme involved increasing Acevedo-Ceballos’ bi-weekly salary from $800 to nearly $2,900, with a significant portion of the inflated salary being funneled back to Charbonier-Laureano and Montes-Rivera.

Upon discovering an investigation into illegal activities within her office and a warrant issued for one of her phones, Charbonier-Laureano took steps to obstruct justice by deleting crucial data from the device, including call logs, WhatsApp messages, and iMessages.

In January, Charbonier-Laureano and Montes-Rivera were convicted by a jury on multiple charges, including conspiracy, theft, bribery, kickbacks, wire fraud, and money laundering.

Charbonier-Laureano also faced an additional charge of obstruction of justice for tampering with evidence on her cell phone.

Acevedo-Ceballos, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges related to federal programs, received a prison sentence of three years and one month in February.

The FBI San Juan Field Office conducted the investigation, while Trial Attorneys Jonathan E. Jacobson and Kathryn E. Fifield of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney María L. Montañez Concepción for the District of Puerto Rico, prosecuted the case.