In the late 2015, a prolonged and increasingly unjustified series of inspections - referred to as "routine examinations" or "audits" - was initiated by the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF). These inspections targeted the Bank and its operations, lasting virtually nonstop until the end of 2021. Despite the burdensome and intrusive nature of the OCIF's examinations, the Bank and its representatives, including Mr. Herrera, maintained full cooperation and compliance, aiming for a collaborative approach with the OCIF to meet its extensive demands.
However, the OCIF was not conducting these examinations in good faith. Unbeknownst to the Bank or Mr. Herrera, the OCIF and its representatives had been co-opted by the Government, specifically, the FBI. These multi-year inspections of the Bank were merely a façade for a clandestine and unlawful criminal investigation executed by the Government. The Government's actions, using OCIF as its compliant tool, deviated significantly from the correct administration of justice and violated the constitutional rights of Mr. Herrera.
In the early stages, around October 1, 2015, OCIF issued a consent order (the "2015 Consent Order"), requiring the Bank to submit certain materials such as a new capital plan, new by-laws, compliance reports, and quarterly progress reports on the Bank's performance. Within two months, the Bank had largely, if not fully, complied with the requirements of the 2015 Consent Order. Contrary to the agreement between the Bank and OCIF that the 2015 Consent Order would be lifted upon completion, OCIF defaulted on its agreement. Ariel Acosta, the then Assistant Commissioner for Depository Institutions, notified the Bank that OCIF wouldn't lift the 2015 Consent Order until it completed a "full examination" of the Bank.
The reason for OCIF's intentional delay was both straightforward and shocking. Although presented as a period of examination, OCIF was, in reality, under the control of the FBI from the very beginning. Less than 20 days after issuing the 2015 Consent Order, then OCIF Commissioner Rafael Blanco referred the Bank to the FBI without any supporting justification. In addition, around July 2016, the FBI conducted an interview with Acosta, who raised baseless "concerns" about Mr. Herrera. Despite the lack of merit in Acosta's allegations, his collaboration with the FBI indicated that neither he nor OCIF were following the actual facts or objective results of the examination process. Instead, they were attempting to harm the Bank and Mr. Herrera.
In January 2017, OCIF ordered a "new" examination of the Bank, supervised by Principal Examiner Karly Padro. The Bank, its representatives, and Mr. Herrera fully complied with this examination, providing all the requested information and documents. Despite the examination concluding in May 2017, OCIF did not release any examination report or lift the still active 2015 Consent Order. Evidence revealed that Padro was pressured by OCIF management to materially alter the conclusions of her report on the Bank.
Only in April 2018 did OCIF pass resolutions relating to the 2017 examination of the Bank and finally lift the 2015 Consent Order. However, the following month, OCIF initiated a new review of the Bank, under the guise of assessing its liquidity function and compliance with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) regulations. Despite the continued compliance of the Bank and its representatives, OCIF initiated yet another full scope examination of the Bank in July 2019. From that point onward, OCIF issued hundreds of individual requests for information and documentation relating to the operations of the Bank.
This examination was just as irregular as the previous ones. The internal inconsistencies and questionable methods employed during OCIF's examination were numerous. For example, the Bank received an email from OCIF BSA examiner Jose Tio, stating that prior submissions by the Bank to OCIF "lacked a lot of information". However, the Bank clarified that said logs had already been fully provided to another OCIF examiner.
Despite the Bank's representatives meeting with then OCIF Commissioner George Joyner to express concerns regarding the reasonableness of the expanded OCIF examination, OCIF's examination of the Bank continued unabated. Discovery finally produced in this case revealed that OCIF's examinations were not genuine or legitimate undertakings. Instead, they served as a pretext for the FBI to secretly gather evidence and generate baseless charges against the Bank and Mr. Herrera.
It is clear that Acosta and former Commissioner Blanco were far from the only OCIF officials who were controlled and directed by the FBI during the multi-year period of "examining" the Bank. Available evidence suggests that nearly every managerial official at OCIF was, at one time or another, an active informant operating under the FBI's direction. Moreover, it seems that almost every continuation or development in the alleged examination process of the Bank was instigated or guided by the FBI.
For instance, in May 2018, when OCIF began a new review of the Bank, FBI special agents unexpectedly contacted one of the Bank’s independent directors, Thais Lopez, with inquiries about the Bank. Despite her lack of recent involvement with the Bank's day-to-day operations, the agents questioned her on various aspects, ranging from the Bank's leadership and customers to Mr. Herrera's personal art collection. This interaction happened while OCIF was conducting an on-site audit of the Bank's liquidity and compliance, revealing the FBI and OCIF's intertwined operations.
Throughout the relevant period, the FBI was controlling or directing the actions of several OCIF officials. Even the deficient discovery provided by the Government so far indicates that at least ten current and former OCIF officials were active informants for the FBI, while they were ostensibly performing their independent regulatory duties. This number is shocking, considering that OCIF only had nine examiners on its staff. Apart from Acosta and Commissioner Blanco, other OCIF officials controlled by the FBI included:
1. Commissioner Joyner, who reported to the FBI regarding the Bank as early as April 2018 and had multiple interviews with the Government.
2. Samuel Rivera, another OCIF official, who provided the FBI with nearly 150 documents related to Mr. Herrera's personal art collection.
3. Victor Rodriguez-Bonilla, former Commissioner of OCIF, acted as a confidential informant for the FBI from January 2018 through June 2020. His role raises significant concerns regarding his true intentions during the OCIF audit process.
4. Jose Tio, the lead BSA Examiner involved in the 2019 examination of the Bank, also acted as a confidential informant for the FBI from June 2020 onward.
5. Natalia Zequeira, the OCIF Commissioner since around January 2021, also acted as an informant for the FBI, frequently providing information about the ongoing examination of the Bank.
The degree of overlap between OCIF and the FBI indicates a deep level of connection between the two agencies, blurring the line between the regulatory role of OCIF and the criminal role of the FBI. The sheer number of OCIF officials who acted at the FBI's behest, coupled with the seemingly never-ending "examination" process the Bank was subjected to, leads to the undeniable conclusion that the FBI used OCIF as a stalking horse to pursue a criminal investigation into Mr. Herrera and the Bank.