The son of ousted Secretary of Treasury, Raúl Maldonado Gautier, has accused Governor Ricardo Rosselló of corruption for allegedly altering reports from Unidos por Puerto Rico, a private non-profit organization that was established to help with the aftermath of Hurricane María. The allegations would implicate his wife, Beatriz Rosselló, who was a spokesperson for the organization.
“Governor, tell me that we were not in your office meeting with the president of BDO and you requested that the Unidos por PR report be changed [because of the] containers, because it affected your wife,” Raúl Maldonado Nieves, Maldonado Guatier’s son, wrote on a Facebook post.
He is referring to the misplaced freight containers that held FEMA relief for hurricane victims that were found in Toa Alta. Last year, accounting firm BDO Puerto Rico took part in an audit that investigated the disappearance of the containers which found no mismanagement.
BDO is currently under federal investigation for allegedly intervening in several government agencies, including the Health Insurance Administration.
Maldonado Nieves’ outburst came after Rosselló asked his father to resign yesterday from his post as Secretary of Treasury, as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OGP, in Spanish) and as Chief Financial Officer of the Government (CFO).
Accusations of Corruption in the Department of Treasury
It all began on Monday morning when the then-Secretary of Treasury said in a radio interview with WKAQ that the FBI was investigating corrupt officials at the Department of Treasury and proceeded to call the department an “institutional mafia.”
Maldonado Gautier was appointed Secretary of Treasury in January for a second time after having served the role in 2017 and then moved on to become Rosselló’s Chief of Staff in 2018. Afterwards, his confirmation in the Senate brought forward claims of conflict of interest, and NotiCel reported that a firm he and his son were associated with had contracts with the Department of Treasury.
In his interview, he alleged that officials who have been at the Department for years were partaking in influence peddling, debt erasure, and extortion, among other things. Maldonado Gautier added that some of the officials in question are affiliated to the highest levels of the administration.
Rosselló responded to Maldonado Gautier’s comments during a press conference, saying that the former CFO never told him about the issues inside the Department of Treasury and that he will ask the Inspector General to look into Maldonado Gautier’s claim.
“The Treasury Secretary made some statements to the media denouncing serious irregularities in the Department he is responsible for directing, which he never informed me of,” said Rosselló, during the conference held at La Fortaleza. It was during this press conference that Rosselló asked for Maldonado Gautier’s resignation for what he characterized as a violation of trust.
Accusations Against Rosselló Begin
Maldonado Gautier’s son responded by calling Rosselló corrupt, in a now-highly circulated Facebook post, and assured that he would provide evidence to back up his claim against the governor. The screenshot of the Facebook post began circulating on social media and eventually made it to national news media outlets, prompting immediate backlash against Rosselló and his administration.
— Ronald Ávila-Claudio (@ronaldavilapr) June 24, 2019
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice summoned Maldonado Gautier to testify under oath for the allegations he made on Monday morning. The Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vázquez, had asked Maldonado Gautier to volunteer his testimony, but because he did not respond, they released an official summons.
“In conversation with the chief prosecutor, we have determined that the assigned prosecutor will be waiting for Mr. Raúl Maldonado, officially summoned for Friday morning,” said Vázquez during a press conference.
Secretary Vázquez also said that Maldonado’s son will be asked to come in to testify next week for the claims he made against the governor. As of the publication of this piece, neither Maldonado Gautier nor his son, Maldonado Nieves, have publicly replied to Secretary Vázquez’ summon.
Following his social media outburst, Maldonado Nieves went on WKAQ and claimed Maldonado Gautier was being extorted by La Fortaleza. He also posted again on Facebook, this time giving details about his meeting with Rosselló.
[Ahora] Hijo de Raúl Maldonado vuelve a escribir. Ofrece más detalles sobre supuesta reunión en Fotaleza con presidente de BDO sobre reporte de Unidos por Puerto Rico. pic.twitter.com/V06XpTY2pn
— Ronald Ávila-Claudio (@ronaldavilapr) June 25, 2019
“Clarifying what I said yesterday. I was in a meeting that there was no reason for me to be in. I was with my old man after exercising, which was the only time I shared with him. I was sitting in front of the governor’s office. The old man comes in but the corrupt one invited me too… I see the president of BDO. I heard the real report of how United for PR did things wrong… How they stopped the distribution of containers to make the news,” he posted on Tuesday morning.
Rosselló Denies Accusations
Rosselló held another press conference on Tuesday to address the allegations, stating numerous times that they are false.
“These allegations show a high degree of incoherence but, more than anything, they are false. I can only attribute that level of fiction to a person who is going through a moment of personal torment, whatever that may be,” he said during the press conference.
Rosselló also defended his wife’s role in Unidos por Puerto Rico, saying she was only a spokesperson and not an administrator of the organization.
Beatriz Rosselló also released a statement saying that his insinuation about Unidos por Puerto Rico is unfounded.
“It makes me very sad that a job that was done every day, 24 hours, for the sake of thousands of families that were affected after Irma and María, is unjustly stained with an unfounded attack,” she said in a press release.
Maldonado Nieves has also challenged Rosselló to partake in a polygraph test to prove himself and wrote that he is willing to take the test as well to disprove those who don’t believe him. Rumors are circulating that local TV personality Jay Fonseca will invite a polygrapher to his show on Tuesday night.
A petition was started on the White House’s site calling for the removal of Rosselló as Governor of Puerto Rico.
Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.