Víctor Suárez shaken by FBI raid on personal property
By Limarys Suárez and Cindy Burgos
SAN JUAN – Visibly affected and teary-eyed, Secretary of State Víctor Suárez expressed Thursday his indignation following the sudden arrest of his 16-year-old son in his own home as part of a raid carried out by FBI agents.
“During the morning today, between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., the residence where my children live with their mother was raided by FBI agents. The story they tell me–to give you an idea, my son just turned 16 in September and my daughter is 14; she’ll be 15 in December–they tell me the agents arrived, knock loudly on the door, when the door opens they show their mother a search and seizure order, handcuff their mother, go to my son’s room, take him out of the room, handcuff him and take them down. My daughter was getting ready in the bathroom and when she went downstairs she was more calm, things were more calm and they didn’t handcuff her,” Suárez said in a press conference at the State Department.
Suárez further said the federal agents took his children and ex wife out of the house and to the street, and began to search for electronic equipment; they took pictures of the residence, interviewed the three, and asked for the passwords of their respective personal electronic devices.
“They didn’t seize [electronic devices]. Based on the information they told me, they didn’t find anything. When I arrived, there were some agents inside and others outside; they told me they were conducting an investigation on identity theft and cyber crimes. At that moment the mother of my children tells me they had handcuffed my son and I asked the agents why they had to handcuff a 16-year-old boy, and they told me it was part of the process, to calm down and that he wasn’t handcuffed anymore,” he said.
The secretary of state added that the FBI agents allowed him to witness their son’s interview, and finally told him that what they had determined is that the house’s internet router was open, making it easy for anyone to access the signal.
“They told me the router was open. Apparently, there were some cybercrimes carried out and they recommend the kids’ mother to change the router for a modern one that comes with a password and to use a username and password,” the public official said.
Suárez expressed feeling affected over the incident and urged the press to be prudent when reporting because there are two minors involved.
“I know the right you have to inform, but I ask you to do it with responsibility, and the federal authorities to conduct the investigation until the last consequences and clarify the result of the investigation. Divulge it. My kids are the children of a public figure and that has an impact on them and magnifies what is happening. My son is 16 and my daughter is 14 with a future ahead,” he stressed.
The secretary of state said the way the FBI carried out the raid “isn’t the way” it should have been carried out, and said he found out about it when he arrived to pick up his daughter to take her to school, as he does every day.
“That isn’t the way to act, and unfortunately it’s an experience they won’t be able to forget for the rest of their lives. The kids decided to go to school but that doesn’t mean they aren’t affected. I haven’t decided about the next step,” he said regarding the possibility of suing the FBI.
Meanwhile, he commented that an apology from federal authorities “doesn’t amend the damage.”
“I believe the federal authorities should look at those processes, and beyond that apology what I ask for them is to clarify this investigation, point out who is responsible and make it public. As you know, this appears in the news, then it isn’t clarified and [my children] remain scarred forever. I am furious, I am affected and I can’t hide it,” he affirmed.
The FBI interviewed Suárez’s son in his underwear.
“My children were nervous. My son was interviewed in boxers, without a shirt, and in order to get dressed with the uniform to go to school he had to get dressed in front of an FBI agent. My daughter was dressed, nervous and worried. The boy, after the process, cried when he was on his way to school,” Suárez added.
García Padilla Reacts
Meanwhile, Gov. Alejandro García Padilla expressed confidence in the secretary of State’s integrity, affirming in a written statement that “Víctor is sure the investigation won’t reveal any finding linking the minors to any crime, and I am sure the results of this investigation will confirm, once more, the integrity that characterizes him as a public official. Víctor and his family have my full support and absolute trust.”