Two months after Venezuelan businessman Juan Carlos Tovar accused Doral City Manager Joe Carollo of grabbing him forcefully at City Hall, transcripts from a police interview show Tovar giving conflicting stories.
In Tovar’s initial statement to police, given a few hours after the alleged Sept. 25 incident, he said Carollo had forcibly pulled and pushed him into a room on the third floor of City Hall while a meeting was happening in the nearby city council chambers.
Javier Bellon, a witness and associate of Tovar, gave a statement to police days later, in which he said he was two feet away from the incident and saw Carollo grab Tovar.
According to transcripts of the interview obtained by the Miami Herald, Bellon changed his story after police showed a surveillance video that depicts no such physical altercation and asked him again whether Carollo had touched Tovar.
“No, not from that video,” he said. “I believed that I saw something totally different.”
He later admitted Tovar’s assertion was not true when asked by police.
Tovar, a real estate developer, ex-client of Doral Mayor Luigi Boria and former business partner of Boria’s adult children, had just gotten a zoning changed approved that benefited his planned luxury home development in Doral when he exchanged words with Carollo.
The development had come under scrutiny during the summer when the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission investigated the possibility of an ethics violation, as Boria had gifted his children money that helped the finance the beginning of the project.
Boria had recused himself from votes regarding the development. The Ethics Commission eventually found no violation.
In a statement given to police days after Bellon’s statement, Tovar said he’d spoken with Bellon about the video, and he backed off the accusation of pulling and pushing while emphasizing that he had been touched, without being specific as to how or where. He also told police that he had felt intimidated.
“I’m not going to get into the detail of where he touched me, but he touched me,” Tovar said, according to the police transcript.
When confronted about the change in story, Tovar maintained that he was “in shock” when he’d give the initial statement.
Tovar and Bellon both face misdemeanor charges of giving false information to police.
Tovar appeared in court Nov. 4 and requested a bench trial, which has been set for Dec. 9. He is being represented by Andrew Vargas, of the law firm Trujillo Vargas, LLC, which was co-founded by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican. Vargas could not be reached for comment.
Carollo said Monday the discrepancies make Tovar’s intentions clear.
“It was clear what there intent was from the beginning,” he said. “It was to lie and to say that I assaulted him by grabbing him and pushing him so that I would be fired.”
Defense attorney Julio Perez is representing Bellon, who has a Jan. 21 court date.
Perez declined to comment on the case.
“We’re just in the process of discovery,” he said.