A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

YourNewsWire Hawks False Fraud Headline


Q: Is the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, “facing fraud charges”?

A: No. Two separate cases accuse Puerto Rico officials of misusing government funds, but Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz isn’t involved.

FULL ANSWER

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who rose to national prominence when she criticized the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, has not been implicated in recently filed corruption cases.

But that fact has not stopped YourNewsWire, a website that spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories, from suggesting that she has been charged.

The website published a story with Cruz’s picture under the headline: “Puerto Rico Mayor Facing Fraud Charges Over $3M In Federal Disaster Relief.”

Cruz is not included in either case, though.

There is “absolutely no mention of her,” Lymarie Llovet, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Puerto Rico, confirmed to FactCheck.org.

Cruz’s absence from the cases is also clear from the indictments, which charge the mayor of a municipality that is on the other side of Puerto Rico from San Juan and, separately, charge a pair of former finance directors from another municipality west of San Juan.

Another thing that the YourNewsWire headline gets wrong is claiming that the money was “federal disaster relief.” Both cases are based on alleged criminal activity that occurred between 2013 and 2016, predating Hurricane Maria, which hit the island territory hard in 2017.

And the cases don’t involve disaster relief money at all. One involves education funds and the other involves housing funds.

The YourNewsWire story eventually explains that the officials being charged aren’t in San Juan and that the alleged malfeasance predates the hurricane. It tries to tie Cruz to the indictments by saying these officials were members of “her own party.”

Even though the headline distorts the facts, the story has been shared on social media pages with a combined following of more than 2 million users and has been copied by at least two other dubious websites.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.

Sources

Gillibrand, Kirsten. Announcement that Carmen Yulín Cruz would accompany her to the State of The Union address. Twitter. 29 Jan 2018.

Dmitry, Baxter. “Puerto Rico Mayor Facing Fraud Charges Over $3M In Federal Disaster Relief.” YourNewsWire.com. 15 Jul 2018.

United States v. Miguel G. Ortiz Vélez. No. 3:18-cr-00424. Indictment. 2 Jul 2018.

United States v. Victor Cruz Quintero and Angel Roberto Santos Garcia. No. 3:18-cr-00425. Indictment. 3 Jul 2018.

FEMA. 2017 Hurricane Season FEMA After-Action Report. FEMA.gov. 12 Jul 2018.

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"Puerto Rico Mayor Facing Fraud Charges Over $3M In Federal Disaster Relief"
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Sunday, July 15, 2018