Robert Rodríguez López, the owner of Apex General Contractors. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)

Robert Rodríguez López, the owner of Apex General Contractors, told the House Health Committee yesterday, behind closed doors, that his former lawyer Juan Maldonado set up the COVID-19 rapid testing kits business behind his back and that he did not know that company was involved in the transaction until late on the night of March 26, when the transaction was completed.

The testimony, which was referred to El Nuevo Día by sources who prefer not to be identified, took place behind closed doors as requested by the Committee after Rodríguez López's attorney, Juan Ramón Acevedo, indicated that his client fears for his and his family's safety since he is cooperating with federal and state authorities investigating the transaction.

"To protect the life and safety of Mr. Rodríguez López and his family, we request that said hearing be an executive one, in private," Acevedo said in a letter sent to the committee.

One of 313 LLC founding partners - another company that sold coronavirus tests to the government - Ricardo Vázquez, was also called to testify yesterday but did not attend, arguing that he also collaborates with "other authorities." Health Commission President Juan Oscar Morales said he would call him to testify under a warning of contempt.

Rodríguez López's lawyer gave the commission access to text messages between his client and Maldonado - which he also shared with law enforcement agencies - that allegedly prove he was deceived by Maldonado, a former Public Works undersecretary and former director of the Maritime Transport Authority under this government.

El Nuevo Día learned that Rodríguez López confirmed he is working with the Puerto Rican Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Health Department's Office of the Inspector General.

He alleged that although he was planning to establish a hand sanitizer manufacturing business, Maldonado called him to propose other businesses related to COVID-19.

Maldonado said he set up the whole testing kit business behind his back.

Around March 18, he allegedly authorized Maldonado to use his signature for a business deal. But he found out about the purchase of COVID-19 rapid testing kits when he received the contract to sell one million of those tests for $38 million in his email on the night of March 26. Maldonado allegedly told him at then that he would make "millions of dollars."

The next day, Apex received the $19 million advance that Rodríguez López had to return when the order was canceled. He also said he did not authorize the signature Maldonado used to allow, in a corporate resolution, businessman Aaron Vick to sign for Apex.

Before the committee last week, Maldonado said he began negotiating with the government on behalf of two other clients, businessmen William Tress and Manuel Agosto, who claimed to have medical equipment to sell to the government or contacts abroad to get it.

But since they were not included in the government's bidding registry, Apex entered the picture, because it had provided services to public agencies in the area of construction and maintenance.

Maldonado invoked the fifth amendment when he was asked questions regarding how the corporate resolution authorizing Vick to sign on behalf of Apex in this transaction was signed. Vick said he sent his electronic signature to Maldonado and that he did not authorize it to be used to sign on behalf of Apex, a company whose existence he was not even aware of.


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