New troubles for Sweetwater, this time in form of a missing police horse

Amid a federal probe into towed cars and towing companies in Sweetwater, a new controversy emerged Thursday related to another mode of transportation.

Sweetwater Police recovered a horse it had acquired but never made it to its destination.

Maverick, a black Percheríon horse, was found at a Homestead ranch owned by a former city police official.

“According to [Sweetwater police] investigators, the horse arrived in Miami in April, but for a long time its whereabouts remained unknown,” police spokesman Jorge Fernández de Lara, said in a press release.

Investigators did not reveal the ranch owner’s name, but El Nuevo Herald’s news partner CBS-4 contacted former Sweetwater Lt. Richard Pichardo, who owned the ranch and had negotiated the purchase of the horse from Asbury University, a tiny, four-year religious college in Wilmore, KY, near Lexington.

Pichardo said he acquired the horse after prosing the idea of starting a mounted patrol at the Dolphin Mall. He obtained $5,000 in funds to pay Asbury for the horse.

América Tevé Channel 41 reported on an email exchange between Pichardo and a Kentucky trainer in April with details about the horse’s health and the purchase price.

Pichardo acknowledged to a CBS-4 reporter that the horse had remained in his ranch since it arrived in Miami, but said that he tried to give it to Sweetwater officials after he resigned his position in September.

According to Pichardo, he sent a letter to former Police Chief Roberto Fulgueira a week later, asking to have the horse picked up because he could not afford to continue paying for food and care, which amounted to about $250 a month.

Fulgueira retired in late October.

“Basically, there was no place for this horse, nobody was interested in protecting it,” Pichardo said. “So the horse I sponsored while I was in the department, they have now decided they want it there. They came to pick it up this morning and I gave them the horse. That was all.”

According to the press release, the “former employee handed the horse voluntarily to the investigators who waited to verify the animal’s identity.”

The case is the subject of an internal investigation, De Lara said.

“We cannot offer more information until we understand all the data,” he said.

Maverick is now in the stable of another Sweetwater officer. A veterinarian examined the horse Thursday and confirmed it was in good health.

By Thursday afternoon, Maverick was being fitted with new shoes.

Pichardo resigned from Sweetwater Police during a restructuring of the department after the arrest of one of its detectives a month earlier.

William García was arrested two weeks after federal agents had arrested former mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño in a case of public corruption.

The FBI has launched a broad investigation of several members of the detectives unit, including probes related to the towing of vehicles in the city by a company owned by Maroño until 2009 and to which Fulgueira had granted an exclusive verbal contract for several years.

Pichardo became the first chief of Cutler Bay Metro-Dade department in 2006, and he resigned from his post in 2009 after a series of scandalous accusations of domestic violence.

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