On Wednesday, Puerto Rico’s former education secretary Julia Keleher was indicted on federal charges claiming that she exchanged public school land for assistance buying a luxury apartment, the Miami Herald reports.
It isn’t the first time Keleher, an Italian-American Republican education leader from Philadelphia, was hit with corruption charges. In April 2019, the U.S. federal government began an investigation into Keleher’s work during her time as secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Education. Months later, on July 10, she was arrested by the FBI and indicted on various charges, including wire fraud, theft of government funds and conspiracy.
This week, Keleher was accused of offering 1,034 square feet of space of San Juan’s Padre Rufo public school to a real estate company that owns the nearby luxurious Ciudadela apartment complex. For the deal, Keleher was given an apartment in the facility, where she lived from June to December 2018 for just $1. Keleher also bought a two-bedroom at the complex for $295,000 and was given a $12,000 incentive bonus.
The controversial education leader faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiracy and federal program bribery and 20 years for wire fraud.
“Public corruption continues to erode the trust between government officials and our citizens,” W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. attorney for the district of Puerto Rico, said in a press release, according to The 74. “Government officials are entrusted with performing their duties honestly and ethically. When they fail to do so, they will be held to account.”
Along with Keleher, a consultant who facilitated the deal, Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez, was also indicted.
Keleher, who faced massive backlash from Puerto Ricans for closing down hundreds of schools and attempting to privatize the education system after Hurricane María struck during the summer of 2017, was Puerto Rico’s education secretary from January 2017 until her resignation last April.