Former Radio Journalist Indicted on Extortion Charges After Allegedly Threatening Government Official

Protesters rally in front of the Department of Justice during an anti-government demonstration
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Sixto Jorge Díaz Colón was arrested by FBI for allegedly extorting government officials

A former radio producer based in Puerto Rico has been charged with extortion and obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to extort money from a government official in the summer of 2019, according to the Department of Justice. Sixto Jorge Díaz Colón, 52, who previously worked for the Spanish Broadcasting System, allegedly exchanged messages with a government official on the messaging app, Telegram, asking for money in exchange to prevent the release of private messages that could damage former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s reputation.

Díaz Colón was first contacted by a former government subcontractor, identified in the indictment as Person 1, in February 2019 who claimed to have messages sent by Rosselló that, if released, could "burn down Puerto Rico," NBC reported, citing the indictment. The messages allegedly contained incriminating information about Rosselló, who is reportedly a close associate of Díaz Colón, and other members of his party, NBC reported.

Four months later, Díaz Colón allegedly reached out to a government official, identified in the indictment as Person 4, asking for $300,000 and "other things of value" from the official to ensure the subcontractor would not release the messages, according to the department's statement.

Díaz Colón reportedly told Person 4 that the subcontractor was going to use the information to "burn down Puerto Rico" unless he received the money.

Several messages in question were eventually released to the public and Rosselló resigned later that year. The messages allegedly contained crass and insensitive remarks about other government officials and even remarks about corpses "piling up" after Hurricane Maria, NBC previously reported.

Díaz Colón was approached by federal authorities in July 2019, after he allegedly deleted Telegram messages containing revealing information about his involvement in the extortion, before surrendering his phone, according to the DOJ.

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant sought to extort a public official of the government of Puerto Rico for his own financial gain, and then compounded his crime by allegedly destroying evidence of his involvement in the scheme when approached by the FBI,” said Nicholas L. McQuaid, acting assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“He threatened to use his influence as a member of the media and on behalf of two public relations firms to destroy the reputations of public officials if they didn’t comply with his requests," said Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. 

The indictment indicates that no money was paid or contracts awarded despite Telegram messages disclosing that they were working on the matter, the outlet reported.

Díaz Colón is facing three counts of extortion and obstruction of justice. The FBI is investigating the case, which is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico.