Justice chief: Purchase of $224,100 armored vehicle remains under investigation

Says 4-year-old case is well underway ‘from the civil aspect’

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Justice Department Secretary-designate Domingo Emmanuelli said Tuesday that the purchase almost four years ago of an armored vehicle by the island Public Safety Department under then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, which cost the government $224,100, is still under investigation “from a civil and criminal point of view.”

“The information has been handled, the information is coming in,” Emanuelli told members of the press at La Fortaleza. “Tomorrow or the day after, I am supposed to receive an opinion from the civil division to determine the course of action to follow in this regard.”

“From what I am seeing, this is a first-time case and we have to try to recover the money or the baby,” added the secretary-designate. “We have to, at some point, file a lawsuit either to recover the vehicle, or to recover the money that was paid.”

When asked why the case has taken so long to be completed, Emmanuelli did not offer an explanation but said it was one of the first cases to be followed up on after he took over as head of the Justice Department on Jan. 4.

“As they say, I fell on it,” he said. “We are already finishing the investigation from the civil aspect, and the investigation is already underway to determine if there was some kind of criminal violation or not.”

As for consequences for the purchase that was made during then-Public Safety Secretary Héctor Pesquera’s tenure, Emanuelli said the investigation is looking at potential causes to hold Texas Armoring Corp. accountable, since the vehicle was never delivered.

“From a criminal aspect, once it is determined, if that were to be the case, that an official was responsible for this, do not not doubt that we will point it out and prosecute it,” he said. “If there’s no criminal responsibility, nothing can be imposed.”

Emanuelli also said that in order to establish criminal responsibility in the case, “gross dereliction of duty” must be proven.

On Jan. 29, General Services Administration Director Karla Mercado Rivera referred to the Justice Department the administrative process followed by several agencies to purchase the 2018 Chevrolet Suburban from the aforementioned corporation. The vehicle never arrived in Puerto Rico despite the fact that payments were made.

During the government transition process back in December, then-Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer Román said the department -- which partook in the process of acquiring the vehicle under Héctor Pesquera -- let it be known that the armored vehicle “had no practical use.”

Will review possible PUA fraud case involving student

When a member of the press requested an update earlier this week on current fraud cases related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, Emmanuelli revealed that the former interim Justice secretary, Inés Carrau recommended closing one case involving a San Ignacio de Loyola School student.

“The information that I have, that I saw, is that there is a recommendation that this case should be closed,” he said. “I am going to re-investigate it, but I want people to know, and this case is famous because it is the son of a well-known person.”

“I want them to know the following: if this young man is not responsible, I will not give instructions and I will not allow him to be charged, whoever he is,” Emmanuelli added. “If he is responsible, I will give instructions to reopen the case and charge him, but the Justice Department, in order to earn respect, has to indict when it has to indict and has to determine that a case does not proceed when it does not proceed.”

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