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Puerto Rico Arrests 2 Ex-Gov. Aides

March 26, 2002

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Two aides to former Gov. Pedro Rossello were arrested Monday, the latest in a series of ex-public officials to be charged in a widening corruption investigation.

Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos, deputy chief of staff to Rossello during the mid-1990s, and Maria de los Angeles Rivera Rangel, a special assistant, were charged with conspiring to interfere with interstate commerce through extortion

U.S. Attorney Guillermo Gil said Rivera Rangel, who handled Rossello’s calendar, used her post to guarantee contractors access to various agency chiefs for a fee.

``That is called the sale of influence,″ Gil said. The prosecutor said the case shows that the governor’s office ``was for sale by some people.″

Ocasio Ramos, who served under Rossello from 1993-96, is accused of paying bribes to Rivera Rangel after he left public office.

According to an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury on Friday, Rivera Rangel demanded a total of $125,000 in payments from Ocasio Ramos, president of the company Global Management, and three other government contractors whose identities weren’t revealed. The payments were allegedly made between 1997 and March 2001.

Rivera Rangel allegedly took the money for her own use and also demanded the purchase of some items for the remodeling of her apartment.

The charges against Ocasio constitute a second round of accusations against him. Last Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to similar charges, admitting he paid a bribe of $35,000 to Andres Barbeito Cambiella, the ex-administrator of Puerto Rico’s public employees’ retirement system.

The bribe was allegedly in exchange for the awarding of a government contract.

Rossello left office in 2000, and his successor, Gov. Sila Calderon, has pledged anti-corruption reforms.

The arrests on Monday are the latest in a series of accusations involving officials during the tenure of Rossello, who led an unsuccessful campaign to make Puerto Rico the 51st state.

In January, authorities arrested former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo and 16 others on charges of stealing federal funds, extortion and money laundering.

In Rossello’s last year in office, high-ranking administrators were convicted of stealing $2.2 million meant for AIDS patients, and funneling some of it to the governor’s party. Rossello was not linked to any wrongdoing.

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