SIPs named in case of alleged fraud involving Mayagüez mayor
By John McPhaul
After an analysis of all the evidence collected by the island Department of Justice in a preliminary investigation into possible unlawful acts attributed to Mayagüez Mayor José Guillermo Rodríguez Rodríguez, the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials) on Tuesday appointed prosecutors for an in-depth investigation.
In its resolution, the PFEI also included the municipality’s finance manager, Yahaira Valentín Andrades, for investigation for acts that imply a breach of her duty as a public official.
The PFEI appointed prosecutors Miguel Colón Ortiz as a special independent prosecutor and Leticia Pabón Ortiz as a delegate prosecutor. In accordance with the resolution issued, the PFEI gave weight to the evidence compiled by the Justice Department, which presented the possibility that both officials violated the Criminal Code of 2021, in its Articles 262 (Failure to Comply with Duty) and 264 (Embezzlement of Public Funds), as well as in the criminal sphere of the Government Ethics Law, Article 4.2 (b).
The extensive evidence is composed of 39 boxes of files, whose delivery, collation, verification of minutes and presentation of digital copy required a lengthy verification process and acknowledgment of receipt according to the index of record that the Justice Department delivered and the PFEI received.
In a written statement, Rodríguez reacted on Tuesday saying, “In the process carried out by Justice, no information was taken into consideration by the Municipality, which clearly establishes the people who did not comply with the law, and defrauded the Municipality.”
“I am sure that this is an opportunity to demonstrate that both the mayor and the finance manager did act in compliance, in a process contemplated in the autonomous municipalities law, which authorizes municipalities to make investments,” the mayor said, noting that the attorney Harry Padilla has been hired as legal representation. “The diversion of this legal activity is what causes these false accusations.”
“I hope once we have the opportunity to do so, it does not take us five long years, as it took professors Uroyoan Walker Ramos, former president of the University, and Carlos Severino Valdez … to prove their innocence in other false accusations by the Department of Justice,” Rodríguez added. “My concentration will continue to be on the recovery work of the City.”
Justice’s preliminary investigation began with a referral from Rep. José Meléndez Ortiz, following an FBI intervention related to certain transactions involving property belonging to the Municipality of Mayagüez.
The report of the investigation of the Justice Department’s Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller’s Affairs showed serious and delicate matters regarding the management of public funds, including transactions that could have been carried out contrary to the law.
According to the law, the special independent prosecutors have a term of 90 days to conduct their investigation.