Rincon man found guilty after killing whistleblower who exposed multi-million-dollar scheme

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 1:31 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 7:25 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WTOC) - A man has been charged for his role in a conspiracy to kill a whistleblower who exposed a multi-million-dollar scheme to fraudulently employ undocumented workers.

Juan Rangel-Rubio, 45, Rincon, was found guilty after a five-day trial of Conspiracy to Retaliate Against a Witness; Conspiracy to Kill a Witness; Conspiracy to Conceal, Harbor and Shield Illegal Aliens; and Money Laundering Conspiracy, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

The charges carry a statutory minimum sentence of life in prison, and there is no parole in the federal system.

Higinio Perez-Bravo, 52, and Rangel-Rubio’s brother, Pablo Rangel-Rubio, 53, await sentencing after pleading guilty in the conspiracy to kill Eliud Montoya.

Montoya was a United States citizen who blew the whistle on a scheme of hiring and mistreating others and who was murdered Aug. 19 2017, near his home.

According to court records and evidence presented to the jury, Pablo Rangel-Rubio worked as a supervisor at Wolf Tree, a contract company that performed tree-cutting services on utility rights-of-way.

Officials say Juan and Pablo schemed to hire people to work for the company, and then routed paychecks to their own bank accounts where they skimmed a portion of the pay for themselves.

As a result of this scheme, the conspirators netted more than $3.5 million.

Mr. Montoya, a United States citizen who also worked at Wolf Tree, saw his colleagues being mistreated and complained to the company and to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After Mr. Montoya blew the whistle on the scheme, Pablo Rangel-Rubio arranged for Mr. Montoya’s murder by paying Perez-Bravo for the use of his vehicles and to act as the getaway driver when Juan Rangel-Rubio shot Mr. Montoya to death.

Sentencings for all three defendants will begin in November in U.S. District Court.