The Coral Gables angel who pledged millions of dollars of help for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is now in prison for fraud — again.
And, strangely, there was no apparent profit to his scheme. Only losses — of food and supplies intended for the island and of income to companies defrauded.
Emilio Vazquez, 47, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and just over $1.5 million in restitution for wire fraud on Thursday. Vazquez, who is in the Miami Federal Detention Center, already did two turns in Florida prisons for fraud.
He is still wanted in Orange County for violating his 15-year probation by moving from the county and, according to an arrest warrant, pulling frauds with characteristics similar to his Hurricane Irma fraud. Seminole County wants Vazquez so he can answer charges of uttering a forged instrument and grand theft in 2013.
According to Vazquez’s federal court admission, Orange County and Seminole County could have found him through Florida’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database . The database says Emilio Vazquez’s name is linked to 4250 Salzedo St. in Coral Gables, an apartment building near the Shops at Merrick Park.
When he talked to Doral’s Commercial Property Group in September about renting warehouse space for hurricane relief supplies, Vazquez said he was Emilio Serralles, a scion of the Serralles family that makes Don Q rum. For five spaces, Vazquez handed over a UBS bank cashier’s check for $122,050.50.
It was fraudulent, although Vazquez did give the Salzedo Street address.
He also used the “Emilio Serralles” name and claimed to own the “Puerto Rico Relief Committee” when he chartered several flights to Puerto Rico through charter company Miami Air International. Another fraudulent cashier’s check, this one from American Express Centurion Bank for $564,036.35, went to Miami Air for the planes on Oct. 12.
Two days later, as “Emilion Serralles,” Vazquez made a $2 million pledge during October’s “We Are One Voice — Somos Live!” benefit concert. Comedian/actress/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres spoke to him on FaceTime.
After the faux checks to Commercial Property and Miami Air bounced, Vazquez tried to mollify them by sending them screenshots of bank statements from multi-million dollar accounts that didn’t exist. He also told them he was in London dealing with his daughter’s funeral.
“l guarantee you on my beautiful daughter’s grave that you will have the wire transfer on the update tonight,’‘ Vazquez e-mailed Commercial from firstname.lastname@example.org.
To Miami Air’s eventual suggestion that Vazquez pay up in cash, he e-mailed he would, but he “was in London waiting the paperwork for his daughter to be completed.”
A Department of Corrections report says Vazquez used the dead daughter story to skip a Feb. 11, 2016, appointment with his probation officer. The probation officer never saw him again. When she went to his apartment, from which he was about to be evicted for paying with bad checks, she said the place contained no furniture, clothes or anything other than a single empty Lunchables container.
In January, a report said that Vazquez tried to buy three homes from Laureat Park Home Builders with fraudulent checks. The probation officer wrote that his sister Vivian claimed her brother had drained their father’s bank accounts and gotten their father evicted from his assisted living facility by paying with fraudulent checks. On Feb. 13, 2016, Vazquez bought several private jet flights from FlexJet with a $1.5 million fraudulent check.
Those schemes gave Vazquez something. The schemes involving Commercial Property and Miami Air gave him nothing but a little prominence, such as when he flew to Puerto Rico with celebrities on planes he rented to distribute donations.
There’s no accusation in this scheme that he stole donations or money. The scheme cost Puerto Ricans donated supplies.
Once Vazquez’s checks bounced back, donations stalled in place, whether in the Doral warehouses or at Aguadilla, Puerto Rico airport, Univision reported.