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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Suspended mayor of Ponce to face trial on 2 charges

Suspended mayor of Ponce Luis Manuel Irizarry Pabón

By The Star Staff

Judge Daniel López González on Thursday found cause for trial against the suspended mayor of Ponce, Luis Manuel Irizarry Pabón, on two charges, one for violation of the Government Ethics Law and another for unjustified enrichment.

“In the JIVP case 01-23-776, the court determines cause. In the JIVP 23 case -- it is article 4.2B of the Ethics Law. In JIVP 23-01-778, article 251 of the Penal Code, same date, April 2021, September 2021, the court finds cause,” López González ruled, before finding no cause on two other charges, for other violations of the Ethics Law and Penal Code.

The reading of the charges will be on April 25 at 9 a.m. The pre-trial hearing will take place on June 6.

The suspended mayor’s defense attorney sounded a note of confidence.

“Well, you are already seeing that we are in a preliminary hearing, it is a preliminary stage. And in a preliminary stage, half of the charges were already dropped, on 50% of the charges there was no probable cause,” said lawyer José Andrew Fuentes upon leaving the courtroom. “The judge here, all he has to see is whether, as to the fact that there was probable cause, which is the other half, if there is a basis to go to trial, that means this was a question of probable cause, is the word. Here it was not determined whether someone is guilty or innocent, that is not the stage we are in, in a stage that is like a filter.”

“We are totally confident that in the trial -- which is where it is finally determined, whether the mayor is innocent or if the mayor committed these crimes -- in the trial we will prevail, we are very confident in that,” he added. “Look, starting the process, in the first inning two cases fell, two out of four have already fallen.”

Upon leaving the room, the suspended mayor simply said: “We respect the processes, we respect the processes.”

Irizarry Pabón faces criminal charges for violations of articles 4.2 (b) of the Government Ethics Law, for obtaining a personal benefit using his public office, and 251 of the Penal Code, for unjustified enrichment, by requesting and obtaining money from his employees, to pay a personal loan of $53,000.

The testimony of a bank official confirmed that the loan was one of a personal nature.

With part of the documentary evidence collected and the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, prosecutors Zulma Fúster Troche, Ileana Agudo Calderón and Fabiola Acaron Porrata-Doria prevailed at the hearing in Ponce.

Starting in April 2023, the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor had been investigating Irizarry Pabón, based on the recommendation of the Department of Justice.

The case began with an email sent to Yesmín Valdivieso, Comptroller of Puerto Rico, in which it was alleged that the mayor instructed municipal officials to request monetary contributions from trust employees and those affiliated with the Popular Democratic Party. The complaint also suggests that the money raised was used to cover Irizarry Pabón’s election campaign expenses and other expenses.

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