Prasa contractor paid $50,000 in cash to Eder Ortiz’s assistant
SAN JUAN – A contractor for the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) declared Friday having given $50,000 in cash to an assistant of former Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Electoral Commissioner Eder Ortiz as a reward for his collaboration with Anaudi Hernández to pay a $1 million debt he had with the utility.
Ramón Crespo, a Prasa contractor from 2009 to 2013 and 20th witness of the federal prosecution, declared Friday that when Alejandro García Padilla’s administration won, he began to have problems getting paid for his work for Prasa, and was therefore “forced” to seek outside help to pay his employees.
In the process, he agreed to pay Hernández $100,000 if he got Prasa to settle the $1 million debt. He also testified that he paid around $100,000 for those same services to speed up the payment of various bills to Marielis Falcón, a codefendant in the government corruption trial along with her sister, Prasa Vice President Ivonne Falcón.
“I went to a party that [Gov. García Padilla] hosted at the Vanderbilt Hotel. I’m not a politician, but Rey Rivera [Eder Ortiz’s right hand] sold me a $2,500 ticket. There, at the Vanderbilt, I met Rey Rivera, who was going to introduce me to Eder Ortiz and meet the governor to ask him about my contract. Rey told Eder: ‘Look, this is the contractor I told you about.’ Eder said, ‘Pleased to meet you,’ and ignored me. Eder told me to give Rey all that needed to be done. That night, Rey also introduced me to Anaudi Hernández and [Hernández] told me he was the person who organized he party. I shook his hand; I began talking to him about my contract and he ignored me. Anaudi said that anything that had to be done would be through Rey, and he ignored me and left,” the former Prasa contractor explained.
According to Crespo González, that same night Rivera told him he needed help and asked for $5,000. The witness declared he gave Rivera a check, but asked him not to deposit it immediately because he was short on cash.
Some time later, Crespo González met up with Hernández at the El Buen Café restaurant in Hatillo, and some minutes later the then-PDP fundraiser told the former contractor, “Look, you are owed $1 million and that money is not up for payment in Prasa. If you want to charge that million you have to give me 10%.”
Federal prosecutor Timothy Henwood asked, “What did you reply to Mr. Hernández?”
“I didn’t dare say anything because when you see him seated next to the governor in that event in the Vanderbilt and Eder Ortiz seated on the other side you assume he is a powerful person,” the Prasa contractor said.
Crespo González pointed out that he had another meeting with Anaudi, this time in the Pelayo deli, to try to get him help settle the Prasa debt.
“Anaudi came and asked if I had thought about it, and since there I hadn’t received any checks from Prasa, I told him I would pay him when Prasa paid me because I didn’t have $100,000 to pay him. He told me he had placed Sonia Barreto in a position of trust and that he knew Ivonne Falcón. When he mentioned Ivonne, I knew who he was referring to and I said she was Marielis’s sister,” he stated.
“How did you make the first partial payment of the $100,000?” Henwood asked.
“First they wanted me to pay the full $100,000, and what I did was I gave them the first $50,000 in checks…. Rey told me Anaudi wanted more money; I said I didn’t have anything to give him and Rey said, ‘But give me something to give him.’ I told him I would give him the $50,000, but he had to look for them in the bank so the cameras recorded him. He went, and I gave him the $50,000 in 25 wads of $2,000 each and he put them in a case,” Crespo González said.
Marielis Falcón Implicated
At the beginning, according to his testimony, Crespo González said he got help from Marielis Falcón, another co-defendant in the trial along with her sister, former Prasa Vice President Ivonne Falcón, who would charge him 10% for every utility payment she managed to expedite.
“I was eating in Mr. Sandwich in Caguas with a friend when she approached me, said, ‘Hello, I am Marielis Falcón,’ and that is when we saw each other again. She asked me what I did. I told her I was a Prasa contractor. She asked if I knew who was the person that made the payments, and I said no, but that I knew her name was Ivonne Falcón, and then she told me that was her sister,” he detailed.
Crespo González added that Marielis asked him to do some tree pruning, and when he went to charge her for the work, the codefendant asked him if he had a pending invoice. He responded that he was owed $20,000, and then she called her sister, who back then worked at Prasa’s Treasury, and said, “We’re good.”
“She did the job of taking care of the Prasa invoice and so I couldn’t charge her. And I was screwed [sic.],” he told the jury.
Marielis Falcón kept helping the former contractor with Prasa payment issues.
“[Marielis] told me: ‘Hey, you know, in a friendly tone, you saw how his works.’ That’s why they charge you 5% to 10% to accelerate check payments. And I paid her. I am a businessman and if I see that you have the power to take get check written, I will pay them. I paid her in cash. I paid her many times in front of the bank or close to my apartment…. I gave her 10% of what I was paid in Prasa,” Crespo González explained.
On one occasion, the witness, as requested by Marielis, paid two checks to contractors that provided her remodeling services. One check for $5,000 and the other for $7,000.
“I don’t know the exact number, but I gave around $100,000,” added the former contractor when Henwood asked him for the total amount he paid Marielis for expediting payments.
“Do you believe you had to make those payments to Eder Ortiz, Anaudi and Marielis?” the prosecutor asked.
“No, because it was my boys and I who did the work. It wasn’t theme. It wasn’t Eder or Anaudi…. Now I don’t have a business. Since I didn’t have anything to pay them, I did not receive the full amount they owed me, I was forced to sell the equipment, I lost my cars, my house, and I lost my partner because I don’t recommend anyone live one year without water or electricity,” he noted.
During the cross examination, in charge of Francisco Adams, the former contractor admitted he “spoke to anyone who could help me. What mattered to me was knowing what happened with my contract.”
Crespo González also agreed that Marielis was not a public employee, having private, unreleated businesses to Prasa.
The trial against Sally López, former Workforce Development Administration (ADL by its Spanish initials) director; Ivonne Falcón, former Prasa vice president, and her sister Marielis Falcón; and Glenn Pizarro, former assistant of House Administrator Xavier González, resumes Monday at 9 a.m.