Justice Dept. won’t recommend FEI in complaint filed against San Juan mayor, legislators
By The Star Staff
After evaluating the allegations, documentary and testimonial evidence, and applicable laws, the Department of Justice’s Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller Affairs (DIPAC by its Spanish acronym), in collaboration with the Special Investigations Bureau (NIE), concluded on Monday after a preliminary investigation that there is no sufficient cause to believe that the defendants, including San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo and several New Progressive Party (NPP) legislators, in a complaint filed on May 2 by members of several other political parties, have engaged in possible criminal conduct under the island’s legal system based on the facts investigated.
In view of the foregoing, the DIPAC issued its report in which it recommends that a special independent prosecutor (FEI) not be appointed. Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández accepted the DIPAC recommendation, and on Monday sent the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (OPFEI) the report on the result of the preliminary investigation carried out at the agency, in collaboration with the NIE, which concluded that “the evidence collected does not establish or corroborate the allegations that the asphalt used in patching the roads of San Juan was paid for with public funds, nor does it establish that the defendants have received or accepted a bribe proposal from any of the partners or employees of JR Asphalt Inc.”
an Juan municipal legislator Adrián González Costa of the Puerto Rican Independence Party -- had indicated that it had been publicly disclosed that Mayor Romero Lugo and other NPP officials, namely Sen. Juan Oscar Morales Rodríguez, Reps. Víctor Parés Otero and Jorge Navarro Suárez, as well as the The complainants -- the general coordinator of the Citizen Victory Movement (MVC by its Spanish initials), former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Manuel Natal Albelo, former PDP Sen. Rossana López León and former Sformer candidate for the House of Representatives for San Juan Precinct 2, Ricardo Rey Ocasio Ramos, had had ties to JR Asphalt and that Raymond Rodríguez Santos and Mario Villegas Vargas were partners in that company and had been accused in federal court of participating in a bribery scheme in exchange for the awarding of municipal contracts that benefited the asphalt and paving company. Therefore, the complainants alleged that there could have been an agreement between the defendant, Romero Lugo, and the partners of JR Asphalt in which the latter would carry out repaving work in the streets of San Juan in exchange for being awarded municipal contracts in the future.
In addition, the complainants -- all of whom ran for mayor of San Juan in 2020 in an election in which Romero Lugo prevailed -- said that according to statements made by Romero Lugo, the mayor confirmed that he did not pay for the asphalt, nor for the personnel or the machinery that was used to pave several streets in San Juan during 2019 and 2020.
The complainants also argued that, given the alleged admissions by the defendants, as well as the information reviewed in various media related to the ties between Mayor Romero Lugo and JR Asphalt Inc., they considered that there could be a series of violations of the Penal Code of Puerto Rico.
The recommendation was announced Monday to the three complainants, as well as to all those involved.
“Today I have been notified of the determination of the Secretary of Justice, Domingo Emanuelli, to accept the recommendation of the Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller Affairs of the Department of Justice (DIPAC) on a preliminary investigation of a complaint filed by Manuel Natal, Rossana López and Adrián González. The complaint made allegations and accusations of illegal conduct with a company linked to acts of corruption. Once the preliminary investigation was completed, the DIPAC concluded that, based on the evidence collected, there is no cause to support the accusations and, therefore, it is recommended that a Special Independent Prosecutor not be appointed,” Romero Lugo said in a written statement. “I respectfully accept the announced determination. It validates what I expressed at the beginning about my compliance with legal rigor in all my actions and conduct as a public servant and about the neatness and rigor in the bidding processes that are carried out in the Municipality of San Juan. Out of respect for the procedures and because it is a matter that is going to be reviewed by the FEI Panel, these are the only statements that I will make in this regard.”