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The nation in brief: Arrests made in Puerto Rican graft case

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | August 5, 2022 at 3:45 a.m.

Arrests made in Puerto Rican graft case

Federal law enforcement agents Thursday arrested former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced, charging her in a bribery scheme aimed at financing her failed 2020 reelection campaign, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Officials said that while Vazquez Garced was governor in 2019 and 2020, she took campaign donations from a banker, Julio Martin Herrera Velutini, and a former FBI agent, Mark Rossini, who was consulting for the bank.

Herrera Velutini's bank was under investigation by the regulatory agency for Puerto Rico's financial institutions. He and Rossini are alleged to have paid more than $300,000 to consultants who supported Vazquez Garced's campaign.

In exchange for the donations, the governor is alleged to have said she would appoint a new regulatory agency commissioner of Herrera Velutini's choosing. In February 2020, she demanded the agency head's resignation, and she appointed a new director a few months later, according to the federal indictment.

Vazquez Garced, Herrera Velutini and Rossini are each charged with conspiracy, federal programs bribery and wire fraud. If convicted on all counts, they face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

"The alleged bribery scheme rose to the highest levels of the Puerto Rican government, threatening public trust in our electoral processes and institutions of governance," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite. "No one is above the rule of law."

Lawmaker's SUV at fault in fatal crash

INDIANAPOLIS -- Police have changed their description of the crash that killed U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., saying Thursday that it was the SUV in which she was a passenger that crossed a state highway's centerline and caused the head-on crash.

Walorski and two members of her congressional staff died in the Wednesday afternoon crash in northern Indiana, along with the woman driving the other vehicle, the Elkhart County sheriff's office said.

The initial account was that the car driven by Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Ind., crossed into the SUV's path, but the sheriff's office Thursday said investigators had spoken with witnesses and viewed video evidence.

Investigators determined that the SUV driven by Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, Ind., crossed the centerline for unknown reasons in a rural area near the town of Wakarusa. Potts was Walorski's district director and the Republican chairman for Indiana's St. Joseph County. Also killed was Emma Thomson, 28, of Washington, D.C., who was Walorski's communications director.

Walorski, 58, was first elected to represent Indiana's 2nd Congressional District in 2012. She previously served six years in the state Legislature. She was seeking reelection this year to a sixth term in the solidly Republican district.

Autopsy results out in Iowa park killings

ANKENY, Iowa -- Three family members killed during a shooting last month at an Iowa state park were shot, stabbed and/or strangled, according to autopsy results released Thursday.

Tyler Schmidt, 42, died from a gunshot wound and multiple sharp force injuries, while his wife, 42-year-old Sarah Schmidt, died from multiple sharp force injuries, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said. Their 6-year-old daughter, Lula Schmidt, died from a gunshot wound and strangulation, officials said.

The deaths have been ruled homicides. The Schmidts' 9-year-old son survived the attack without physical injury, but investigators have not said whether he was in the family's tent when the attack happened.

The department confirmed Thursday that the killer was Anthony Sherwin, 23, of LaVista, Neb., who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the attack early on the morning of July 22 at Maquoketa Caves State Park. He had been camping with his parents, according to police and his mother.

Investigators said all evidence collected substantiates that Sherwin acted alone, but police have not indicated a motive.

Innocent, says parade shooting suspect

WAUKEGAN, Ill. -- The man accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens in a shooting at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago pleaded innocent Wednesday, a week after prosecutors announced he faces 117 felony counts.

Robert Crimo III appeared for a brief hearing in Lake County's circuit court to enter a formal plea to the charges -- 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery representing those killed and wounded during the parade in Highland Park.

Crimo wore a covid-19 mask throughout the 10-minute arraignment and repeatedly told Judge Victoria Rossetti that he understood the charges and potential penalties, including life imprisonment. As he shuffled into court, the chains around his ankles jangling, several relatives and friends of at least one victim turned to look at him from across the room, some keeping their eyes fixed on him throughout the hearing.

Prosecutors have said Crimo admitted to the shooting.


Print Headline: Arrests made in Puerto Rican graft case Lawmaker’s SUV at fault in fatal crash Autopsy results out in Iowa park killings Innocent, says parade shooting suspect

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