Puerto Rican radio producer arrested by FBI over government chat scandal
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The FBI on Wednesday arrested a radio producer for allegedly attempting to extort money from a government official to prevent the publication of private messages that would “burn Puerto Rico” – communications from a encrypted messaging application that then brought down the government Ricardo RossellÃ³.
Sixto Jorge DÃaz ColÃ³n, 52, who formerly worked for Spain’s broadcasting system, faces federal charges including attempted extortion and destruction, alteration or falsification of documents as part of a federal investigation, according to a grand jury indictment.
The indictment states that a former government contractor contacted DÃaz in February 2019 and said he had a copy of the messages sent through the Telegram app which supposedly contained incriminating information about RossellÃ³, his close collaborators and members of his party.
Four months later, according to authorities, DÃaz sent a Telegram message to the island’s public affairs secretary saying that while the RossellÃ³ government “does not stop playing” with the relative of a former senior official, the deputy dealing with “overwhelming evidence” that could destroy the administration, starting with the governor.
Authorities say DÃaz then contacted the Secretary of Public Affairs to request a meeting, during which he asked for help securing government contracts that would compensate him.
“Public corruption has many faces,” said Rafael Riviere, special agent in charge of the FBI office in San Juan. “Sometimes … criminals will try to exploit the weaknesses of those in public office. It is also a form of public corruption and, like any other form of corruption, will not be tolerated.
Although the indictment does not identify the public affairs secretary by name, Anthony Maceira held that post at the time.
Joannie Plaza-MartÃnez, a public defender assigned to DÃaz’s case, did not immediately return a message for comment. Maceira did not respond to a request for comment.
The names of the parent and the subcontractor were not disclosed.
Weeks after the meeting, local media published hundreds of pages of private and rude Telegram messages in which RossellÃ³ and other senior officials insulted women and mocked voters, including victims of Hurricane MarÃa. The revelation led to huge protests that crippled Puerto Rico and ultimately prompted RossellÃ³ to resign.
Meanwhile, officials said, DÃaz attempted to extort money from the Secretary of Public Affairs to prevent the publication of additional Telegram messages, claiming the contractor intends to “burn Puerto Rico” unless that he received some $ 300,000 through DÃaz. Authorities allege that DÃaz also asked for additional money to pay other people who would defend RossellÃ³ and the reinstatement of government contracts that would benefit him.
The indictment says that although the Secretary of Public Affairs sent a Telegram message saying they were working on the matter, no money was paid or any contracts awarded.
FBI spokeswoman Limary Cruz said DÃaz was arrested at his home on Wednesday.