An internal investigation at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Puerto Rico has revealed that an employee ran a private business out of her office selling vitamins and Energetix magnetic jewelry.
According to a police report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Ileana Torres Rodriguez, a mental health technician, ran a business out of her office for a minimum of three years without interruption and reportedly sold to doctors, nurses and other employees at the facility. Rodriguez has worked at the facility for 30 years. The report was issued July 24 and was conducted by Detective Eric E. Diaz of the police and security service at the VA.
One of the employees interviewed during the investigation said that she shared the same office with Rodriguez between March and November 2014. This employee said that Rodriguez clearly kept a private business in her work area, which involved selling vitamins and jewelry.
Buyers would come to the office entrance, and Rodriguez in turn would deliver the goods in a bag.
Additionally, this unnamed employee claimed rumors had spread throughout the office of Rodriguez’s activities. Rodriguez’s supervisor reportedly had heard the rumors, as well. The report oddly noted, however, that while there was no evidence her immediate supervisor knew about the business, that same supervisor did in fact issue verbal counselling to the effect that running a private business would count as neglecting proper duties.
A second employee testified that she had bought merchandise, a purse, from Rodriguez’s private business at the VA. This purchase took place 7 or 8 years ago, according to the employee’s memory. This employee said that the reason she bought the purse is because Rodriguez said she needed the money for her daughters.
In another case, an employee said that she bought magnetic jewelry from Rodriguez three years ago, but then tried to return them because the jewelry was of poor quality. Rodriguez still apparently phoned her constantly to try and collect.
When questioned, Rodriguez repeated the same line she had told administrative staff during a previous investigation January 9, 2015, namely that she definitely did not have a private business in the workplace.
Rodriguez quickly broke down after the investigator confronted her with documentary evidence, which consisted of merchandise bookkeeping records. Rodriguez kept lists of the people who owed her money and lists of the people to whom she had sold goods.
As soon as the investigator brought up the evidence, Rodriguez started to cry.
Rodriguez “began to cry and told us that she wanted to tell the truth because she already had asked God forgiveness for her lying about the facts,” the report read.
She then admitted to running a private business in the office for 2-3 years and selling Energetix magnetic jewelry. She said she stopped selling at the VA after the investigation in January 2015.
Other interviewed employees testified that they were well aware of the existence of these rumors.
According to testimonial and documentary evidence, Rodriguez “maintained a private business during work hours at her workplace” and “neglected her duties.”
Still, Rodriguez was not fired from the facility, despite running a private business for a minimum of three years and lying to investigators about her activities. Running a private business at the VA is a clear violation of regulations which prohibit “Commercial soliciting or vending, or the collection of private debts on property.”
One anonymous whistleblower told The Daily Caller News Foundation that this is because Rodriguez allegedly sold merchandise to Deputy Director Nayda Ramirez. In contrast, Joseph Colon, an employee at the Puerto Rico facility, blew the whistle over concerns about patient care and was subsequently given a notice of proposed firing, though the VA in December downgraded that notice to a reassignment. During the process,the VA investigated Colon four times and moved him into the basement.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to a request for comment by press time.