Former Miami Cuban leader sentenced for fraud

Campaign News | Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Con artist was treasurer of faction created with funds from USAID

PUERTO RICO March 2nd.

A federal court has sentenced Ariel Gutiérrez Rodríguez, a Puerto Rican businessman of Cuban origin, to a five year prison term for fraud in Puerto Rico.

Gutiérrez Rodríguez was the treasurer of a faction created by the well-known Madrid-based anti-Castro activist Carlos Alberto Montaner using funds from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. He was also a trustee of the Miami-based ultra-rightwing Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF).

Architect Gutiérrez Rodríguez was found guilty of participating in a financial operation that led to the bankruptcy and closure of the Caguas Central Federal Bank of Puerto Rico. According to experts, it is the largest bank fraud in Puerto Rican history.

Along with his brother Henry, Ariel Gutiérrez was a CANF trustee up until the 1990s. Both were also founders of CANF’s Puerto Rican “chapter,” which Ariel headed for a short time.

During that same period, he was also an active member of Cuban defector Huber Matos’s counterrevolutionary organization Cuba Independiente y Democrática, which conducted operations in Central America with suspicions of drug trafficking.

After leaving Jorge Mas Canosa’s group, Gutiérrez became treasurer of Unión Liberal Cubana, an “armchair party” founded in 1992 by Carlos Alberto Montaner under CIA guidance and funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and – thanks to José María Aznar – money from the Spanish International Cooperation Agency.


While Ariel Gutiérrez was a leader of the CANF during 1986-87, he and his brother, along with banker Lorenzo Muñoz Franco from the Caguas Federal Savings Bank; the bank’s vice president Francisco Sánchez Aran; and businessman Wilfredo Umpierre conspired to commit fraud via loans supposedly destined for housing project construction.

According to federal court documents, the bankruptcy of Caguas Central Federal Savings Bank is the largest in Puerto Rican banking history, with registered total losses of $120 million.

Court documents describe “loan-kiting,” in which payments on commercial credit loans were made using money from real estate loans, creating the accounting illusion that the real estate loans were legitimate.

In May 2002, Gutiérrez and his accomplices were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, bank fraud, embezzlement and the undue use of loans after a trial that lasted more than 18 months.

The whole case was skillfully stretched out for several years thanks to the lawyers –the best in Puerto Rico—hired by the con men to prolong the proceedings.

It is only now – nearly two years after having been found guilty – that have been sentenced to five years in jail.

The Gutiérrez brothers built an enormous office building during the 1980s near the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami.

Ariel Gutiérrez is the owner of the Modules construction company, and of a printing business, Art Printing, which has been involved in dubious transactions on more than one occasion.

In addition to his prison term, Gutiérrez also received a $60,000 fine –a drop in the ocean beside the gigantic profits that his scam procured. This was so to the extent that Federal Judge Daniel Domínguez was realistic when he commented on pronouncing the sentence: “in the end, it was his corporations that ended up with all the money.”

The Ariel Gutiérrez/Caguas Bank case recalls a settlement reached this past January 5 between Cuban-American Eduardo Masferrer and the U.S. banking authorities. Masferrer agreed to pay a $40,000 fine and $960,000 in restitution over the next five years to settle civil charges brought against him after the fraudulent bankruptcy of the Hamilton Bank, which he headed. He is a cousin of the Cuban gang member Rolando Masferrer, a friend to famous drug traffickers, an accomplice to the late Jorge Más Canosa, a money-laundering specialist, and a sworn enemy of the Cuban Revolution who led the “elite” of Miami’s Cuban-American financial mafia.


Carlos Alberto Montaner, whose subsidized cash box was handled by Gutiérrez, was a U.S. Army soldier and a student at Fort Benning, Georgia, the CIA-directed academy of terror, where he learned sabotage techniques. He belonged to the terrorist group Representación Cubana en el Exilio (RECE) – created by the CIA and financed by José Pepín Bosch, owner of the Bacardí rum company – along with terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles, now in jail in Panama, and Orlando Bosch.

According to the Cuban government it was Montaner who facilitated the August 1973 illegal entry into France by terrorist Juan Felipe de la Cruz, who died in a Paris hotel after the bomb he was preparing to place in the Cuban embassy exploded.

None of this is expressed or explained by The Miami Herald, a newspaper where Montaner’s writings are now being published.

Montaner’s little group recently participated in the Cuban Cultural Congress, convened and financed by Aznar in his role as partner to George W. Bush and the extremist, right-wing ringleaders in Miami.

Also attending that event were individuals such as Ricardo Bofill, the ineffable president of the Cuban Human Rights Committee; and a representative from Reporters sans frontières, the “specialized” vehicle Robert Ménard, whom Havana also accuses of being a CIA operative.

BY JEAN-GUY ALLARD of Granma International

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