“We sac­ri­fice rams, goats, chick­ens, roost­ers—all this is part of the an­cient re­li­gions. I don’t be­lieve that the caiman has the power to do any­thing”

What did Mau­rice Spag­no­letti learn about his bank be­fore he was killed?

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - CONTENTS - By Zeke Faux

On the day Mau­rice Spag­no­letti was mur­dered, his black Lexus sedan was full of bal­loons. It was June 15, 2011, the day be­fore his wife’s birth­day, and he was plan­ning a celebration.

Spag­no­letti, 57, was the No. 2 ex­ec­u­tive at Do­ral Bank in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once flush, the bank had been al­most ru­ined by a fraud scan­dal, and in 2007 it was res­cued by Bear Stearns, Gold­man Sachs, and a group of hedge funds. The Wall Street in­vestors had put up $610 mil­lion, but Do­ral con­tin­ued to lose money, and they were los­ing pa­tience. In late 2010, Do­ral hired Spag­no­letti, a New Jerseyan with ex­pe­ri­ence in man­ag­ing large banks, with or­ders to re­duce costs and get Puerto Ri­can op­er­a­tions un­der con­trol.

When the banker ar­rived on the is­land, he made a good first im­pres­sion. At 6 feet 2 inches and about 250 pounds, with a strong Jersey ac­cent and hands that he used to punc­tu­ate his sen­tences, Spag­no­letti re­minded his new col­leagues of Tony So­prano with­out the men­ace. He’d walk through the Do­ral of­fice, stop­ping at un­der­lings’ desks to get up to speed on who ran what and how.

The sun was set­ting on an­other muggy San Juan day as Spag­no­letti pulled out of Do­ral’s bland of­fice park down­town. His wife was wait­ing at home with their 6-year-old daugh­ter. He’d flown his sis­ter-in-law in for the party, too. The drive to his condo on palm-tree-lined Con­dado Beach took just 15 min­utes when there wasn’t traf­fic. But a few min­utes af­ter Spag­no­letti got onto the high­way, he slowed for a backup on a bridge over a canal. An­other car pulled up along­side his. Some­one fired at least nine shots from a .40-cal­iber hand­gun, shat­ter­ing his win­dows, and four bul­lets hit him in the head. Spag­no­letti’s mo­men­tum sent his car veer­ing off the high­way, and it came to a stop in a thicket of trop­i­cal brush. The po­lice ar­rived, and at 7:21 p.m. they pro­nounced him dead.

The iden­ti­ties of Spag­no­letti’s killers are still a mys­tery, and the bank over­haul that he was hired to lead didn’t work with­out him. Do­ral col­lapsed in 2015, the big­gest U.S. bank fail­ure since 2010, done in by bad loans and Puerto Rico’s decade-long eco­nomic spi­ral. The Wall Street in­vestors who hadn’t al­ready sold were wiped out, and the U.S. gov­ern­ment spent $700 mil­lion to cover de­pos­i­tors’ losses.

To­day, al­most ev­ery­one in San Juan bank­ing cir­cles has a the­ory about the mur­der. Some be­lieve only Colom­bian hit men could pull off such an as­sas­si­na­tion. Oth­ers say Spag­no­letti had en­e­mies in the U.S. who caught up with him. His widow, Marisa, re­vealed her own the­ory in a 2013 law­suit: She said he was killed be­cause he un­cov­ered fraud at the bank and fired an ex­ec­u­tive he sus­pected of em­bez­zle­ment. Do­ral’s lawyers called her claims ridicu­lous, and af­ter Marisa ad­mit­ted in a de­po­si­tion that she had no ev­i­dence, she with­drew the suit.

Since then, new de­tails of the killing have emerged. And ac­cord­ing to for­mer Do­ral ex­ec­u­tives and peo­ple work­ing on the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the widow was onto some­thing. “Let’s use our com­mon sense for a sec­ond,” says María Domínguez, who was in charge of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Do­ral as first as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney in San Juan un­til she re­tired last year. “This guy was brought by the bank to put the house in or­der. He starts un­cov­er­ing cer­tain things that are ir­reg­u­lar at the bank. He starts to take cor­rec­tive ac­tion. These cir­cum­stances strongly sug­gest a fi­nan­cial mo­tive to get this guy out of the way.”

But this wasn’t the usual Puerto Ri­can cor­rup­tion. The real story of Mau­rice Spag­no­letti’s mur­der may be more bizarre than any­one knew.

Do­ral Bank’s founder was Salomon Le­vis, whose Jew­ish fa­ther fled Poland to es­cape the Nazis. The fam­ily set­tled in Cuba, where Salomon was born, then moved to Puerto

Rico. In 1972, Le­vis and his sib­lings started a mort­gage com­pany that would be­come Do­ral. The bank took off as the is­land pros­pered, and by 2001 it was orig­i­nat­ing al­most half the home loans in Puerto Rico. Its prof­its peaked at al­most $490 mil­lion in 2004. Around then, the Le­vis fam­ily’s 8 per­cent stake in the bank was val­ued at $355 mil­lion, mak­ing them among the is­land’s rich­est peo­ple. Salomon Le­vis, who had be­come a cor­pu­lent play­boy, was a fix­ture at high so­ci­ety events, and the gos­sip pages chron­i­cled his di­vorce and re­mar­riage to a much younger blond lawyer.

Then it all un­rav­eled. In 2005 the bank re­vealed it had in­flated its earn­ings by about $1 bil­lion, prompt­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Le­vis wasn’t charged, but his nephew went to prison for fraud, and the Le­vis fam­ily was forced out of the bank.

“We had a real mess,” says John Ward, who was ap­pointed in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer in 2005. The bank didn’t have enough money to pay off $625 mil­lion of debt com­ing due. The board wanted a CEO from out­side Puerto Rico to clean house and at­tract new in­vestors. In 2006 they found Glen Wake­man, who was run­ning GE Cap­i­tal’s con­sumer credit busi­ness in Mex­ico and the rest of Latin Amer­ica.

Wake­man, then 46, had grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Scran­ton and spent more than 20 years work­ing for Gen­eral Elec­tric around the world. In Mex­ico he’d taken a stag­nant busi­ness and more than dou­bled its size, ac­cord­ing to Mark Be­gor, his boss at the time, who calls Wake­man an “en­er­giz­ing and pas­sion­ate leader.” To lure him to Puerto Rico, Do­ral of­fered a min­i­mum of $5 mil­lion in pay over the first two years, plus $1.5 mil­lion in stock and $6 mil­lion to make up for his GE pen­sion.

Wake­man be­lieved fer­vently in the GE man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy. He liked to talk about Six Sigma, the qual­ity mantra pop­u­lar­ized by for­mer GE CEO Jack Welch. He hired bankers from Bear Stearns to find new in­vestors, shut­tled to New York to meet with hedge funds, and re­placed most of Le­vis’s deputies.

Les­bia Blanco, then 59 and a hu­man re­sources di­rec­tor at John­son & John­son, was one of the new ex­ec­u­tives. As Do­ral’s new chief tal­ent and ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, Blanco was part of Wake­man’s in­ner cir­cle, with an of­fice near his on the ninth floor of head­quar­ters. She soon re­al­ized some­thing strange was go­ing on at Do­ral. One Satur­day in 2006 or 2007, she says, when she was work­ing over­time to help pre­pare the bank to court Wall Street in­vestors, a se­cu­rity guard came by her of­fice. He told her there was some­one in Wake­man’s of­fice he didn’t rec­og­nize and showed her a se­cu­rity-cam­era pic­ture of a man wear­ing a beaded neck­lace and clothes that were un­usu­ally ca­sual for the ex­ec­u­tive floor.

Blanco walked over to in­ves­ti­gate. Wake­man’s sec­re­tary was there with the stranger. She told Blanco that the man was her San­te­ria god­fa­ther and that he was help­ing the bank with its re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion.

The re­li­gion known as San­te­ria emerged in the 16th cen­tury among peo­ple from West Africa, called Yoruba, who were en­slaved and brought to the Caribbean. Co-opt­ing the Catholi­cism that their cap­tors tried to im­pose, they picked saints to rep­re­sent their deities and con­tin­ued to wor­ship them in se­cret, with drum cir­cles and an­i­mal sac­ri­fices

Af­ter the killing, Marisa was hys­ter­i­cal. The bank sent armed guards to walk ex­ec­u­tives home

in the woods. The re­li­gion now has about 70,000 fol­low­ers in Puerto Rico, ac­cord­ing to Joaquín “Kimmy” So­lis, pres­i­dent of the is­land’s Yoruba as­so­ci­a­tion.

The man Blanco saw in the CEO’s of­fice was Rolando Rivera So­lis. Kimmy So­lis says Rivera, a dis­tant cousin, is a ba­bal­awo, or San­te­ria high priest. As a ba­bal­awo, Rivera can ini­ti­ate oth­ers into the re­li­gion, con­duct sac­ri­fices, and divine the des­tinies of his fol­low­ers by toss­ing coconut rinds on the ground.

Blanco started see­ing Rivera on the ex­ec­u­tive floor more and more. “He had ac­cess to Glen’s of­fice di­rectly,” she says. She says her sec­re­tary once had to clean Wake­man’s clothes—it’s not clear of what—af­ter a rit­ual at the San­te­ria priest’s house.

Blanco won­dered why the Amer­i­can CEO was dab­bling in the lo­cal re­li­gion, but kept her ques­tions to her­self. Wake­man was close with his sec­re­tary, Nancy Vélez. Other than his driver, who dou­bled as a body­guard, she was the only per­son al­lowed to ride in the ex­ec­u­tive el­e­va­tor with him. She would walk him out of the build­ing, car­ry­ing his brief­case, then kiss him good­bye on the cheek as he got into his chauf­feured car, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple who saw them. Such em­braces aren’t un­com­mon in Puerto Ri­can cul­ture.

Other Do­ral em­ploy­ees started to no­tice un­usual things. Juan de la Cruz, the bank’s vice pres­i­dent for se­cu­rity, says some­one told him Vélez and Rivera were con­duct­ing San­te­ria rit­u­als in the board­room. There was no se­cu­rity cam­era there, but de la Cruz checked the footage from one in the hall­way. “I looked in the cam­era and saw Rolando,” he says, “walk­ing with the lug­gage and some bot­tles in his hand.” De la Cruz says he dropped his in­quiry af­ter an­other em­ployee who prac­ticed San­te­ria told him that the rit­u­als were sanc­tioned by Wake­man.

A for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant, who asked for anonymity be­cause she’s afraid of the ba­bal­awo, says Vélez told her about one rit­ual in­volv­ing a caiman, an al­li­ga­tor-like rep­tile na­tive to Puerto Rico. Rivera, Vélez, and an­other Do­ral em­ployee drove the caiman to the park­ing lot early one Sun­day, the for­mer as­sis­tant says, and used Vélez’s ac­cess to the ex­ec­u­tive el­e­va­tor to by­pass se­cu­rity. Dressed all in white, they took the caiman into the con­fer­ence room and in­voked the names of each board mem­ber, the for­mer as­sis­tant says she was told. She adds that she thinks the crea­ture wasn’t killed, be­cause she didn’t see any blood the next day.

Lizzie Rosso, Do­ral’s gen­eral man­ager for con­sumer bank­ing at the time, says some­one who was at the caiman rit­ual told her about it the fol­low­ing Mon­day. Other for­mer Do­ral em­ploy­ees de­clined to dis­cuss the sub­ject. “Maybe they are afraid of the San­te­ria and the con­se­quences,” Rosso says, laugh­ing ner­vously. “I don’t want to be killed.”

So­lis, the Yoruba as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent, is skep­ti­cal that a caiman would have been in­volved. “We sac­ri­fice rams, goats, chick­ens, roost­ers—all this is part of the an­cient re­li­gions,” he says. “I don’t be­lieve that the caiman has the power to do any­thing.”

If Rivera did per­form a rit­ual, it was ap­par­ently suc­cess­ful. In May 2007, Do­ral an­nounced it had sold 90 per­cent of its stock for $610 mil­lion to a group of in­vestors in­clud­ing Bear Stearns, Gold­man Sachs, Marathon As­set Man­age­ment, D.E. Shaw, and Perry Cap­i­tal. Eleven months later, Rivera was given a con­tract to clean Do­ral’s head­quar­ters and branch of­fices. The head of the pre­vi­ous jan­i­to­rial ser­vice says she’d never heard of Rivera in her 17 years in the lo­cal clean­ing busi­ness. Rivera’s com­pany, SJ Trop­i­cal Main­te­nance Ser­vices, wasn’t reg­is­tered un­til the month he won the con­tract. And while the old clean­ers charged $23,000 a month, SJ Trop­i­cal was given $27,350.

Blanco says the con­tract was sanc­tioned by Wake­man. “It was a re­ward for help­ing Glen [keep] the bank afloat,” she says.

Wake­man, who’s been work­ing as a con­sul­tant in Mi­ami since Do­ral failed, de­nies any al­le­ga­tions he’d been in­volved with Rivera, prac­ticed San­te­ria, or re­warded the high priest. “This is both shock­ing and un­true,” he says. Wake­man’s lawyer de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

Rivera’s lawyer, Me­lanie Car­rillo-Jiménez, says that while her client is a high priest, he didn’t per­form any rit­ual for the bank. “He wasn’t get­ting paid for any San­te­ria what­so­ever,” she says. “Where the hell did this come from?”

Do­ral’s vice pres­i­dent for prop­erty and fa­cil­i­ties, An­nelise Figueroa, over­saw the new, more ex­pen­sive main­te­nance

con­tract. She says the con­tract in­cluded ad­di­tional ser­vices and was ap­proved by Wake­man, who, Figueroa says, did prac­tice San­te­ria. “Wake­man used Rolando,” she says. “When I found out, ob­vi­ously I thought it was weird, but then again you can’t mess with peo­ple’s re­li­gions.”

Figueroa and Blanco, her boss, didn’t make an is­sue of the jan­i­to­rial con­tract. But in 2009 and 2010, they ac­cused each other of in­flat­ing the costs of other ser­vices. Blanco says she in­ves­ti­gated her sub­or­di­nate and told Wake­man that the bank should fire Figueroa. Wake­man over­ruled Blanco, with­out say­ing why, she says, and be­gan to freeze her out. “Since that day, my life was mis­er­able there,” Blanco says. “He didn’t in­volve me in any meet­ings. I was just there like a piece of pa­per that you move from one side to an­other.”

Blanco left Do­ral in Oc­to­ber 2010. By then, Wake­man had al­ready given some of her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to a new ex­ec­u­tive: Spag­no­letti. “He had ac­cess to all the in­for­ma­tion in my com­puter,” Blanco says. “All the de­tails on what had hap­pened to that in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Per­haps he got sus­pi­cious and started dig­ging.”

Blanco says she feels lucky she es­caped with her life. “I thank my Lord every day,” she says. “That per­son didn’t go there to be killed, but to work. It’s bad.”

The hand­bags are dis­played by color—blue and pink on the left, orange and white on the right. A photo of Mau­rice with his arms around Marisa and their daugh­ter sits on a man­tel, sur­rounded by pink cloth roses and Christ­mas lights. All the prof­its go to char­i­ties to honor Spag­no­letti’s mem­ory.

“When Mau­rice was killed, it took so long to get on my feet,” Marisa says on an April morn­ing, her eyes fill­ing with tears. “Do you know what it’s like for a girl to cry every day, ‘Who killed my daddy?’ ”

Two women walk into the shop to browse. Marisa has never met them but tells them a lit­tle about Mau­rice’s mur­der. She says she still cries her­self to sleep every night. With a re­porter, Marisa won’t dis­cuss her law­suit against Do­ral, other than to say the bank hasn’t given her any money. When she with­drew the suit, she did so in a way that al­lows her to re­file it later. When the truth comes out, she says, it will show that Mau­rice was a hero. “My hus­band would die with honor rather than live a life of dis­hon­esty,” she says.

Spag­no­letti started work­ing as a bank teller in New Jersey as a teenager, ac­cord­ing to his widow. He got a busi­ness de­gree at night and worked his way up in the course of 20 years, even­tu­ally be­com­ing pres­i­dent of Sum­mit Bank’s Penn­syl­va­nia di­vi­sion. He raised two chil­dren with his first wife. Then, in 1999, Mau­rice re­con­nected with Marisa. They’d worked to­gether at a Sum­mit pre­de­ces­sor but didn’t know each other well and had been called to tes­tify in a court case about the

Mo­tombo grabbed a woman as a shield. “Don’t do this! ” she cried. He started shoot­ing

bank. Mau­rice and Marisa were both Ital­ian and Catholic. He’d grown up in Jersey City, and she was from Bay­onne, just a few miles away. Spag­no­letti was 11 years older. On the last night of the trial, he asked her out. They were mar­ried the next year.

Marisa says Mau­rice would cheer her up when she had prob­lems at work. “Go look out­side,” he would say. “The sun’s out, the sun’s go­ing to al­ways come out. Ev­ery­thing can be solved.”

In 2000, Spag­no­letti joined Fifth Third Bank. He be­came head of its cen­tral In­di­ana af­fil­i­ate, pre­sid­ing over branch open­ings and or­ga­niz­ing field trips for school­child­ren. He won over his new col­leagues with jokes but held them ac­count­able for meet­ing the goals they set. Spag­no­letti would in­vite them and their spouses to his home for bocce and pasta. He said the word “great” so in­ces­santly that it be­came a run­ning joke at the of­fice.

Af­ter a few years at an­other bank in South Carolina, the Spag­no­let­tis moved back to New Jersey around 2008 be­cause Marisa’s fa­ther was dy­ing. Mau­rice used the free time to dote on his daugh­ter, who was then 3. Bruce Bal­mas, who worked with him at Fifth Third and Do­ral, says his friend would call him from the park and say, “I never could have done this be­fore.”

Two years later, re­cruiters con­tacted Mau­rice, ask­ing if he’d con­sider mov­ing to Puerto Rico. The pack­age at Do­ral in­cluded, in ad­di­tion to a $400,000 salary, a $300,000 tar­get bonus, mak­ing him among the high­est-paid peo­ple at the bank. Spag­no­letti was hired as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for mort­gage and bank­ing op­er­a­tions, re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pened in Puerto Rico day to day.

When Spag­no­letti ar­rived in Septem­ber 2010, Wake­man was bat­tling the Fed­eral De­posit In­surance Corp. The CEO was sad­dled with bil­lions in loans the bank had made un­der its pre­vi­ous own­ers; as Puerto Rico tipped into re­ces­sion, Do­ral had to keep mark­ing the loans down, erod­ing its cap­i­tal. The FDIC blocked Wake­man’s plan to buy as­sets from Do­ral’s ri­vals, and with­out a clear plan for growth, some of the bank’s Wall Street in­vestors bolted. Gold­man Sachs lost at least $30 mil­lion, and the hedge funds Marathon, D.E. Shaw, and Perry lost about $50 mil­lion each, fil­ings show.

Spag­no­letti ad­mired Wake­man as a CEO and be­lieved the bank could be turned around. “I’m work­ing harder than ever, but I must say I love it,” Spag­no­letti wrote in an e-mail to a friend on April 22, 2011. “I make sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions and feel very ap­pre­ci­ated. One prob­lem is the lack of tal­ent. I need to check ev­ery­one’s an­swer twice. Oth­er­wise, this is a GE type of en­vi­ron­ment. Sigma Six black belts run­ning around.”

Ini­tially, Spag­no­letti com­muted from New Jersey. He and Marisa never stayed apart for more than three days. They lived in a Mar­riott ho­tel for a while, and then a condo on Con­dado Beach. In the spring of 2011, Spag­no­letti hired Bal­mas as a con­sul­tant; they had din­ners at an Ital­ian restau­rant by the beach and spent some nights gam­bling at casi­nos on the Con­dado strip. Spag­no­letti loved to swim and take his daugh­ter to look for seashells.

But that same spring, Spag­no­letti clashed with Figueroa, the fa­cil­i­ties vice pres­i­dent who han­dled the San­te­ria priest’s main­te­nance con­tract. They fought about pur­chases as small as a ta­ble, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit she filed against the bank in 2012 al­leg­ing gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion. On March 8, Spag­no­letti e-mailed Figueroa ask­ing whether she un­der­stood that she was sup­posed to fol­low his or­ders. “Do you un­der­stand that as a Vice Pres­i­dent of this com­pany, you are also ex­pected to al­ways ex­er­cise good judg­ment in the per­for­mance of your du­ties?” he wrote. “YES, AL­WAYS HAVE AND AL­WAYS WILL,” she replied, ac­cord­ing to her law­suit, which was set­tled con­fi­den­tially.

Marisa al­leged in her law­suit that her hus­band un­cov­ered fraud at Do­ral, in the form of Figueroa pay­ing ven­dors for ser­vices they didn’t per­form and mak­ing unau­tho­rized trans­fers of $30,000 a week to some­one. If Spag­no­letti knew about Do­ral’s San­te­ria cir­cle or the idea that the pay­ments might have been not fraud but a re­ward for su­per­nat­u­rally as­sist­ing the bank, he kept it from his wife. Figueroa, who was fired on May 25, 2011, says she did noth­ing wrong and doesn’t know any­thing about the mur­der. “I’m more anx­ious than any­one to find out who did it to clean up my name,” she says.

Three weeks af­ter Figueroa’s ter­mi­na­tion, on the day he was killed, Spag­no­letti left work on the early side. Bal­mas de­parted later and got stuck in traf­fic by the bridge. He didn’t think

any­thing of the shat­tered Lexus on the side of the road.

Around 2 a.m., a col­league called to tell him what had hap­pened. Bal­mas went to the Spag­no­let­tis’ apart­ment and found Marisa hys­ter­i­cal, talk­ing about how her hus­band had been kid­napped. Wake­man had been there, along with other col­leagues, and the bank sent armed guards to walk them home. Do­ral as­signed se­cu­rity guards to other top ex­ec­u­tives, and Wake­man brought guards with him to Spag­no­letti’s New Jersey fu­neral.

As in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Spag­no­letti’s mur­der be­gan, Do­ral strug­gled. The Puerto Ri­can econ­omy only got worse, and more of the bank’s loans be­came worth­less. The FDIC wouldn’t give Do­ral’s bal­ance sheet its seal of ap­proval, and with­out it, Do­ral couldn’t get the money it needed to op­er­ate. Wake­man tried ex­pand­ing in the U.S. He moved Do­ral’s head­quar­ters to Mi­ami in 2013. U.S. op­er­a­tions showed a profit that year, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing Puerto Ri­can port­fo­lio.

In 2014, Puerto Rico cre­ated a ma­jor crimes unit, headed by Cap­tain Fer­di­nand Acosta, and he took up the Spag­no­letti mur­der. There weren’t many leads. None of the 911 callers got a good look at the shooter or his ve­hi­cle, Acosta says. The mur­der was def­i­nitely not ran­dom, but the shooter ex­hib­ited poor aim, so he may not have been a pro­fes­sional gun­man. Acosta says he started in­ter­view­ing Do­ral em­ploy­ees but got word from the FBI to back off. “They pre­fer to do it alone,” he says.

The FBI’s mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, be­gun shortly af­ter the 2011 shoot­ing, had ex­panded to in­clude fraud—just as the widow Spag­no­letti had charged. In De­cem­ber 2014 the FBI raided Do­ral, seiz­ing com­put­ers from Wake­man, his sec­re­tary, and other ex­ec­u­tives. In Fe­bru­ary 2015, Rivera and Figueroa were ar­rested and charged with fraud. The fed­eral in­dict­ment said that Figueroa changed the clean­ing com­pany’s con­tract so that it was get­ting $24,288.27 every week in­stead of every month. In all, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, the pair wrong­fully took about $2.4 mil­lion.

Two days later, on Feb. 25, the FDIC closed Do­ral’s doors for good. The agency spent $698.4 mil­lion mak­ing Do­ral’s de­pos­i­tors whole. Many of the branches, along with the head­quar­ters, were sold to Pop­u­lar, an­other Puerto Ri­can bank. The head­quar­ters build­ing is empty now. A rusty out­line re­mains where the Do­ral sign used to hang.

Days af­ter the bank failed, San­te­ria sto­ries sur­faced in lo­cal news­pa­pers. El Nuevo Día wrote that there had been a rit­ual with a caiman at the bank. Le­vis, the founder, went on the ra­dio to joke about it. The fail­ure of Do­ral is like a “de­tec­tive novel,” he said. “Not even the caiman could save them at the end.”

When Rivera came to court to plead not guilty to fraud, the pro­ceed­ings re­vealed that po­lice had found 10 guns in his home. All were legally reg­is­tered to him or his wife. Pros­e­cu­tors said Rivera had been charged with mur­der once be­fore, in 1983, and was ac­quit­ted. He was put un­der house ar­rest, with an elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing bracelet. Figueroa also pleaded not guilty.

Eight months later, in Oc­to­ber 2015, the agents look­ing into Spag­no­letti’s mur­der caught a break: A man on Puerto Rico’s most-wanted list was ar­rested at San Juan’s air­port. He’d worked for Rivera at his jan­i­to­rial com­pany, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

His name is Yadiel Ser­rano-Canales, aka Mo­tombo, and, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, he was a mem­ber of a gang that dealt co­caine and heroin in San Juan’s Villa Esper­anza hous­ing projects. In a court fil­ing, an FBI agent de­scribed a June 2012 in­ci­dent that got Mo­tombo on the most-wanted list. Just af­ter 1 a.m., he and a friend ap­proached three off­duty po­lice of­fi­cers who were hang­ing out at a bar across from the projects. Af­ter words were ex­changed, Mo­tombo left and re­turned with a gun. “Put down the phone, d---sucker,” Mo­tombo said to one of the of­fi­cers. The cops pulled out their own guns; Mo­tombo grabbed a nearby woman by her hair, us­ing her as a hu­man shield. “Mo­tombo, don’t do this!” she cried. He fled, fir­ing four times at the po­lice of­fi­cers, and es­caped the is­land. In 2015 he ar­ranged to re­turn to Puerto Rico and turn him­self in.

FBI agents in­ter­ro­gated Mo­tombo for about an hour in a win­dow­less room on the sec­ond floor of San Juan’s po­lice head­quar­ters. A per­son with knowl­edge of the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and one of the Puerto Ri­can po­lice of­fi­cers say Mo­tombo is sus­pected of driv­ing Spag­no­letti’s shooter. Mo­tombo hasn’t been charged in con­nec­tion with that. He’s in fed­eral cus­tody, fac­ing attempted mur­der charges for the po­lice shootout. He pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer de­clined to com­ment.

In Novem­ber, Wake­man’s sec­re­tary, Vélez, was ar­rested and charged with per­jury for telling the grand jury she didn’t know about the pay­ments to the San­te­ria priest. Pros­e­cu­tors say she in­structed two Do­ral em­ploy­ees to pay Rivera weekly rather than monthly. Vélez pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer, Mariela Maestre Cordero, de­clined to com­ment.

In April the Do­ral case took yet an­other turn. U.S. pros­e­cu­tors moved to drop the charges against Rivera and Figueroa. They with­drew the in­dict­ment “with­out prej­u­dice,” mean­ing that they can file new charges with more in­for­ma­tion if they choose to.

A day af­ter the about-face, I drive to a gated com­mu­nity in a sub­urb of San Juan to meet Rivera, the per­son I’d heard so much about. I find a chubby man with a neatly trimmed gray chin­strap beard stand­ing on the porch of a two-story gray stucco house. The San­te­ria priest is wear­ing gold bracelets on his wrists and an elec­tronic bracelet on his an­kle. Rivera shakes my hand and of­fers my trans­la­tor a light. He cuts off my halt­ing at­tempt to in­tro­duce my­self in Span­ish. “I speak English,” he says, with­out an ac­cent. Then he tells me to call his lawyer.

His at­tor­ney, Car­rillo-Jiménez, says her client had noth­ing to do with Spag­no­letti’s mur­der and that the pay­ments he re­ceived were for jan­i­to­rial ser­vices he per­formed. “Peo­ple are spec­u­lat­ing,” she says. “There is no ev­i­dence what­so­ever.”

Dou­glas Leff, the FBI spe­cial agent in charge of the San Juan di­vi­sion, held a news con­fer­ence on June 15, the fifth an­niver­sary of the shoot­ing. He an­nounced a $20,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to an ar­rest, and Marisa of­fered $10,000 of her own. The au­thor­i­ties are in the fi­nal stages of their in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he said, and have a great deal of in­for­ma­tion about the cul­prits. In an in­ter­view, Leff de­clines to com­ment on po­ten­tial sus­pects. The fraud and mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tions, he em­pha­sizes, are pro­ceed­ing on in­de­pen­dent tracks. “We’ve been work­ing it very dili­gently, and we have a lot of mo­men­tum,” he says about the mur­der. “The more dig­ging we do, the more po­ten­tial av­enues we find to work. There may be dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent lev­els of cul­pa­bil­ity.”

When I visit Marisa, she says she has com­plete faith that the FBI will solve the case. “You need to un­der­stand,” she says, “that jus­tice is com­ing.” <BW>

Marisa Spag­no­letti now runs a hand­bag bou­tique in Mor­ris­town, N.J., called Lucy’s Gift, named af­ter her daugh­ter.

Illustrations by Daniel Zen­der

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