The investigative efforts at the state and federal level around the purchase of evidence of COVID-19 have not stopped and on Thursday it was the turn of the independence representative Denis Márquez to attend to agents of the Special Investigations Bureau (NIE), which carry out the investigation for the local Department of Justice.
The investigation is led by prosecutor Phoebe Isales, director of the Division of Public Integrity.
" They fundamentally wanted me to explain my report, my findings, the signaling Dr. Segundo Rodríguez for perjury and the crime of conspiracy among all the components that participated in the $ 38 million transaction ”said Márquez, referring to the hour and a half visit with agents Edna Cruz and Florencio Vélez.
The investigation of the Health Commission of the House of Representatives reflected how the combination of alleged acts of government negligence and an alleged attempt at fraud On behalf of private figures such as Juan Maldonado, Robert Rodríguez López and Ricardo Vázquez, the government was in the position of embezzling up to $ 41.6 million.
This figure is divided by the $ 38 million purchase from Apex General Contractors and the purchase of 101,500 tests from the company 313 LLC. for $ 3.6 million. The purchase from 313 LLC . it included the full disbursement and a long legal battle between the company and the government is expected, which tries to recover the money.
Márquez discussed with the agents the first partial report that he would render as a member of the Health Commission and said he hopes to render the second report next week. One of his conclusions indicates that Dr. Rodríguez may have committed perjury before the Health Commission by not telling the whole truth about the true power that he had as coordinator of the La Fortaleza medical "task force."
" Segundo lied before the Commission when he indicated that he was not making decisions and said that he was not responsible for making determinations, approving transactions, and it appears that he was, " said Márquez.
The minority legislator said he was confident in which the investigation carried out by Justice and the NIE will pay off.
"I was in 100% of the hearings, I studied hundreds of documents on this subject and, as I have said before, I care little about the primarist battle in the PNP ( New Progressive Party), but it was an extensive investigation and with a lot of information… in the future the consequences and the responsibility of each one will be seen, ”he said, arguing that he is convinced that crimes were committed in the context of the approval of the transactions.
"It is up to the Executive branch, with its investigative power and search for evidence, to determine if it can present them and would hope so," he said, referring to the possible filing of charges. “What I am convinced of is that in Apex and in 313 there was a great scam and not a mere negligence on the part of government agencies in the process. They reached an agreement thanks to political patronage to benefit two irresponsible companies without health ties in Puerto Rico and generate millions in profits. ”
It is not the first time that a minority legislator has been interviewed regarding COVID purchases- 19. On May 22, the spokesman for the popular minority in the House, Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, was also interviewed by agents Cruz and Vélez.
Hernández Montañez had made a referral to Justice including public expressions of the former secretary of Salud, Concepción Quiñones de Longo, who later shared in a closed-door view of the Health Commission, about Mabel Cabeza's participation in transactions, Quiñones de Longo's exchanges with the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Lilian Sánchez and how the former secretary of Health Administration, Adil Rosa, was the one who communicated to the manager of the Quest laboratory, Miguel Ribas, to deliver tests for COVID-19 at the headquarters of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Administration and Disasters and not in Health, which had been the order of Quiñones de Longo.
Except Ribas, all these figures, including Quiñones de Longo herself, have been referred by the Health Commission to various institutions s of law and order.
Hernández Montañez also spoke with the agents about the testimonies of lawyer Juan Maldonado and the owner of Apex General Contractors, Robert Rodríguez López.
The president of the Health Commission, Juan Oscar Morales, He said he does not remember the last time he was interviewed by NIE agents, but he did say that he knows that the investigation is in full swing.
"I have known people who have gone to testify before the NIE," he said.
Morales gave the federal authorities the audio of the executive hearing in which Quiñones de Longo participated. to anticipate the future.
“But we fulfilled our responsibility to do our job and we had to report. Now it is up to the authorities to evaluate and determine if the filing of charges is warranted. I hope there will be a consequence because, on the contrary, we would be back where we are now and that is why Puerto Rico is as it is, because irresponsible acts have no consequences, "said Morales
One of the findings of the investigation by the Salud revolves around how Cabeza, a former chief of staff in the Health Department, allegedly used his power to make his sister, Lumary Cabeza, benefit from a salary increase from $ 50 an hour to $ 85 an hour when she allegedly did not proceed. " for being contrary to the existing contract between Manpower and the Department of Health, "reads the report signed by Morales.
El Nuevo Día learned that Luz" Nildy "Cruz Romero, director of the Medicaid program in the The Department of Health has been interviewed by the local and federal authorities about this salary increase that was finally disavowed after she notified the then Secretary of Health, Rafael Rodríguez Mercad or, who allegedly was unaware of the increase.
The Fiscal Oversight Board has also shown interest in the matter and even sued the government of Puerto Rico to have access to certain documents related to purchases in the context of COVID-19. The fiscal entity managed to obtain certain documents through the Chamber and investigates, for example, the circumstances in which contracts in excess of $ 10,000 were awarded without consulting the fiscal entity.
On April 23, the Secretary of Health, Lorenzo González Feliciano confirmed that NIE agents visited the central offices to seek information about Cabeza, Rosa, the Secretary of the Interior, Antonio Pabón, and the Undersecretary of the Interior, Lilian Sánchez.