Ex-GSA administrator gets four and a half years of probation for post-Maria fraud

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

After more than two years of being under investigation by the island Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Division and Comptroller Affairs Office on allegations of possible improper, unethical and illegal conduct, former General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Miguel Encarnación Correa was sentenced Wednesday to four years and six months of probation for violation of various articles of the Puerto Rico Penal Code and the Government Ethics Law.

The Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials) announced the sentence imposed by the San Juan Superior Court.

Based on the panel’s report, Encarnación was indicted on five criminal charges under Article 252 (Illegal Use of Public Works or Services), one charge under Article 108 (Aggression), and another charge on Article 241 (Disturbing the Peace), which will apply concurrently. The sentence also included three charges under Article 4.2 (q) of the Government Ethics Law which must be served consecutively.

Encarnación Correa restored two electrical generators owned by the Puerto Rico government. The sentence was handed down by Judge Gisela Alfonso Fernández. The case was presented by Special Independent Prosecutors Emilio Arill García and Manuel Núñez Corrada.

Justice Dept. began investigation 2 years ago.

Back on June 28, 2018, then-Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced announced that the PFEI had begun an investigation against Encarnación Correa based on complaints from GSA employees who alleged that steps were taken to purchase electrical generators for other employees after Hurricane Maria and that payments were allegedly instructed to be made under his name.

“According to Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares’ public policy of zero tolerance for post-Maria fraud and for those who took advantage in the middle of the emergency, today we are notifying the PFEI that after the evaluation was conducted and the testimonies received, we will proceed to investigate this case as possible fraudulent conduct after Hurricanes Irma and Maria passed through,” Vázquez said at the time via a written declaration.

Meanwhile, the now-governor of Puerto Rico said then that according to Law 2-1988, which created the PFEI, in cases involving public officials such as agency heads, the Justice Department must conduct a preliminary investigation.

“The Department has 90 days to conduct the investigation and determine whether to issue a referral to the PFEI with a recommendation that a Special Independent Prosecutor be appointed for a full investigation,” Vázquez said. “The Governor [Ricardo Rosselló] has given us all the necessary support to tackle corruption, wherever it comes from, and that is why we will conduct all the necessary investigations.”

Former GSA chief refers matter to authorities

On Feb. 1, 2018, Encarnación Correa reacted to the accusations that were released by International Professional and Office Employees Union President Iram Ramírez, saying in a written statement that he was making a referral to the Justice Department, the Comptroller’s Office and the FBI for an investigation.

“To the Union President who makes accusations without evidence, I assure you that they are false; however, I invite you to put this complaint under oath immediately,” Encarnación Correa said. “I also establish that the Union President has never contacted me to bring this matter or any other related matter [to my attention].”

The letter went on to say that “since the first anonymous accusation of harassing employees [made] against us, I have said that we are open to any investigation.”

“The policy of this administration is zero-tolerance against corruption,” Encarnación Correa wrote.

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