A lieutenant from the Puerto Rico Fire Department was arrested this Thursday by US authorities on the island for allegedly entering the territory without documents, a source from a local federal agency confirmed to Efe.

As explained to Efe by Alek Pacheco, interim spokesman for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI, in English) in San Juan, the detained official was identified as Pedro Rodríguez Garnier, lieutenant of the Cabo Rojo Fire Department (southwest).

Rodríguez was arrested this Thursday morning by Mayagüez HSI agents at his residence in Cabo Rojo, where he housed and gave food to undocumented immigrants, Pacheco said.

Rodríguez faces charges for transporting unauthorized persons to enter the United States or any territory of the country and for hiding illegals in his residence until they paid a reward for his freedom.

"Once these people reached the coast illegally, Rodríguez picked them up, took them home and asked their relatives for money to free them."Pacheco detailed.

The fire lieutenant charged between 400 and 500 dollars to the relatives of whom he collected and hid in his residence.

Pacheco refused to mention how many people Rodríguez managed to hide and how much he charged for all of them.

The investigation against Rodríguez began on August 1, 2019, Pacheco said. Following his arrest, he was taken to appear before Magistrate Giselle López Soler at the Federal Court in San Juan for arraignment. After the hearing, bail was set at $5,000, which he posted.

However, the judge asked to put an electronic shackle on Rodríguez to be monitored by the authorities, the revocation of his US passport and a home curfew between seven at night and seven in the morning.

Pacheco, on the other hand, lamented this event after a boat loaded with undocumented immigrants capsized west of Puerto Rico on May 12, leaving 11 women dead and another 38 rescued.

The boat came, as usual in that area, from the Dominican Republic, but most of the migrants on this occasion were of Haitian nationality.

"In Puerto Rico, due to the social and political situation in Haiti, we have seen an increase in these adventures of Dominican and Haitian citizens who try to enter the country illegally"Pacheco said.

For his part, the designated commissioner of the Puerto Rico Fire Department Bureau, Marcos Concepción, stated in a press release that after learning of Rodríguez’s arrest, "immediately" ordered "his summary suspension"according to the agency.

"They are very serious accusations, and as commissioner of the Fire Department Bureau, I repudiate any illegal act, no matter where it comes from."he claimed.

Finally, the president of the United Firefighters Union of Puerto Rico, José Tirado, described how "regrettable" Rodriguez’s arrest.

"This case is isolated. Although he is assisted by the presumption of innocence, if his guilt is proven, this case does not represent the members of the Puerto Rico Fire Department, public servants 100% committed to saving lives."he pointed.

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