Wrongful death suit filed against Puerto Rico bankers in slaying of US executive

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The widow of a U.S. banking executive slain in a drive-by shooting in Puerto Rico has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the bank’s CEO and other high-ranking officials.

The federal lawsuit marks the first time that a potential motive has been given for the high-profile killing. The suit comes two years after Maurice Spagnoletti, an executive vice-president at Doral Bank, was repeatedly shot as he drove his Lexus on one of San Juan’s busiest highways.

New Jersey-based attorney Alan Zegas said in a phone interview Tuesday that the defendants have about a month to respond.

Local FBI spokesman Moises Quinones said the agency is still investigating the killing, which police said they believe was professionally orchestrated. No one has been arrested.

Puerto Rico-based Doral Financial Corporation rejected the lawsuit and its allegations.

“It is false, frivolous and has absolutely no legal basis,” the company said in a statement, adding that it has co-operated with authorities. “(We) are confident that we will prevail against this malicious and reckless action that has no basis.”

Marisa Spagnoletti says in the lawsuit filed last week that her husband was investigating what he suspected were improper transactions before he was killed. “Spagnoletti continually questioned the accounting practices of the firm, as he did not believe the reporting to be accurate,” she says.

She also alleges that two days after her husband was killed, as she got ready to fly to New Jersey, a person who worked with Doral security approached her at the San Juan airport and said he knew of a plan to kill her husband and that another bank security official was involved.

The lawsuit alleges that Spagnoletti repeatedly raised concerns about loan and profit reporting with CEO Glen Wakeman, but was rebuffed. It also alleges that Spagnoletti believed funds were being improperly disbursed, up to $30,000 a week for services not rendered.

Spagnoletti also allegedly discovered that the bank was offering different rates to different clients, and that it issued a $1 million loan to a woman who claimed a nonexistent hotel as collateral.

The lawsuit alleges that Enrique Ubarri Baragano, the bank’s executive vice-president and chief counsel, had tried to block Spagnoletti from reporting his concerns. It also says that Ubarri and Spagnoletti had argued about Annelise Figueroa, then the bank’s executive vice-president of facilities and operations. Wakeman allegedly had ordered Spagnoletti to fire her but Ubarri opposed the move.

“Spagnoletti lived in fear of imminent death and suffered mental anguish prior to being shot multiple times while driving alone in his car,” the suit says.

Doral spokeswoman Lucienne Gigante said that all those named in the lawsuit still work at Doral except for Figueroa.