From: Hilario De Leon, Associated Press
Published November 4, 2004 12:00 AM

FBI Agents Search Homes of Striking Water Union Leaders in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — FBI agents on Wednesday searched the homes of union leaders from Puerto Rico's striking water authority amid allegations of financial mismanagement, union officials said.

The FBI and U.S. Internal Revenue Service agents searched the homes of Hector Rene Lugo, president of the Authentic Independent Union; union secretary-general Elba Garcia; vice-president Andres Carrasquillo; and his son, Carasquillo said.

A warehouse where union documents are stored was also searched, Carrasquillo said.

FBI spokesman Luis Feliciano acknowledged that five searches had been conducted Wednesday morning in the neighborhoods where the union leaders live and where the warehouse is located, but he declined to give details.

The federal agents left the union leaders' homes with briefcases full of confiscated personal documents, union lawyer Juan Ramon Acevedo said.

"This is one more violation to pressure us" to halt the strike, Carasquillo told private WAPA radio. "The strike will be over when we negotiate a complete agreement."

More than 4,000 water workers have been striking since Oct. 4 to protest the state-run Aqueduct and Sewer Authority's decision to replace the union-run medical plan with a private plan.

Water service has been running normally except for isolated cases. The water authority's managers have stepped in to fill staffing gaps.

Two months ago, Insurance Commissioner Dorelise Juarbe ordered the union to return US$11.7 million that she said was misused by the medical insurance plan's board of directors.

Juarbe said that the money was used to underwrite salaries, purchase luxury vehicles for union officials, and for other excessive administrative charges. Union leaders deny funds were misued.

Source: Associated Press

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