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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ponce campaign worker gives version of alleged corruption scheme

Ponce Mayor Luis Irizarry Pabón

By The Star Staff

Luis Herrero Acevedo, who worked for the electoral campaign of Ponce Mayor Luis Manuel Irizarry Pabón and was a contractor for the municipality for several months, provided a version earlier this week of an alleged corruption scheme in which the mayor arranged for the payment of a loan from his electoral campaign by at least one director of a municipal agency and other municipal employees.

“What we know so far is that he was paying that loan since he took it out [and] until he threw out Oso [Luis Báez, Irizarry Pabón’s former campaign manager] in March 2021; he was paying it,” Herrero Acevedo said Wednesday on his podcast “Puestos Pal Problema,” which is broadcast on YouTube and co-moderated by journalist Jonathan Lebrón Ayala. “Then, when he throws Oso out, he apparently and allegedly gives the payment book to the [municipal] director of Public Works. The director of Public Works tells him ‘Mr. Mayor, I don’t have kids to pay for that,’ and that’s when the mayor increases his salary. As the salary of the director is established by ordinance, it is necessary to create or approve an ordinance or amend it or give it a differential, and that is where the Municipal Legislature increases the salary of the director of Public Works by 600 and something pesos [dollars].”

“The director of Public Works is paying off that loan for several months,” Herrero Acevedo continued. “Until at some point he gets fed up and returns the notebook and says ‘Doctor, I’m not going to continue paying for this. If you want to, throw me out, but [I can’t] pay for it.’ And so that’s when the mayor gives the [payment] book to one of his top aides, who if I’m not mistaken is called, well, I don’t know. In fact, he could be one of the accused. And that main assistant, who cannot pay it alone either … goes to other agency heads and asks them to ‘give me 50 [dollars] every month, give me 80 every month and in that little package, in that little pot, he paid the loan.”

The podcasters added that the payments reportedly were made in a bank in Plaza del Caribe and at a branch adjacent to the City Hall.

On Monday, Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández recommended to the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (OPFEI by its Spanish initials) that it appoint a special independent prosecutor to investigate Irizarry Pabón for allegedly requesting monetary contributions from trust employees in violation of various legal provisions.

Emanuelli Hernández accepted the recommendation of the Justice Department’s Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller’s Affairs (DIPAC), and sent the OPFEI the report on the preliminary investigation, along with the case file.

The DIPAC’s determination was the result of a preliminary investigation by DIPAC and the department’s Bureau of Special Investigations.

The evidence collected, besides showing that the Ponce mayor, through intimidation, managed to get his subordinates to provide financial contributions and make payments on the aforementioned personal loan to partially cover the expenses of his political campaign, also established among other things that prior to assuming the position of mayor, Irizarry Pabón received illegal donations that he did not report in the quarterly reports he presented to the Office of the Elections Comptroller of Puerto Rico.

The Justice Department’s preliminary investigation began with a communication received from the Office of the Comptroller, which was referred to the Justice secretary. Because Irizarry Pabón is an official to whom Law Number 2-1988, known as the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel Law, applies, Emanuelli Hernández referred the comptroller’s communication to the DIPAC for the development of the corresponding investigation.

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