Mayagüez mayor says he won’t resign amid municipal fraud scandal

Points out there are ‘no accusations or charges’ against him

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Mayagüez Mayor José Guillermo “Guillito” Rodríguez Rodríguez said Tuesday that he will not resign after federal authorities arrested seven people, including two of his counselors, and a U.S. District Court grand jury two weeks ago handed down charges on 33 counts of wire fraud and money laundering.

Rodríguez Rodríguez further insisted that he was the victim of a fraudulent scheme made behind his back, without his authorization or knowledge, even though some documents included his signature.

“There are no reasons for me to have to resign,” the mayor said at a press conference that lasted more than two hours at the Batey Delfín in Barrio Quemado in Mayagüez. “I stood here with you with my head held high and my duty done. There are no accusations or charges against the mayor of Mayagüez.”

Rodríguez Rodríguez has said on several occasions that the documents used to carry out the transactions were not authorized by the board of directors of Mayagüez Economic Development Inc. (MEDI).

“At the board meeting, there were matters that were not on the agenda that were not discussed, nor were they approved by the board. The investigation began with a letter signed by the mayor and a letter signed by the secretary [of the MEDI board],” Rodríguez Rodríguez said. “When those two letters were presented, an order was issued to search for the letters with the mayor’s signature and the letters with the signature of the secretary of the [MEDI] board and those two letters, in the hands of the FBI, were not signed by the mayor or the secretary of the board.”

On several occasions, he argued that he would not provide too many details, out of concern that the defendants would use such information against him.

Regarding the role of Kenneth Soto, who was one of the employees of the municipality who allegedly cleared the way for the transactions, the mayor said he is still an employee of the municipality, but is out for personal reasons.

“Mr. Kenneth Soto has to explain under oath who gave him the document, what explanation he was given to say that this document had been approved by the board, that it was not true and under that ruse and deceit he signed the document,” Rodríguez Rodríguez said.

As for Vice Mayor Heriberto Acevedo, who also has been implicated in the scheme, the mayor said he still has his confidence despite the fact that the vice mayor authorized a fraudulent transaction.

The mayor also denied that the funds approved by the island Legislature -- $9 million for the Mayagüez Trauma Center -- were not affected because then-Gov. Alejandro García Padilla allegedly took the funds away from him to use them for the Trauma Center at Río Piedras Medical Center and for the purchase of a helicopter.

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