A Hialeah political story: How a chopped-up electrical pole ended up in a car

07/02/2013 8:52 AM

07/02/2013 11:03 AM

A war of words between Hialeah mayoral candidate Juan Santana and the city has escalated after authorities disclosed that that Santana’s wife was arrested two years ago on charges of stealing an electric pole and cutting it up so it could be transported in a car and sold for scrap.

The disclosure came a day after El Nuevo Herald ran a story about Santana having filmed a verbal attack against him from a former police officer who is close to Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández, the man Santana hopes to replace in November’s election.

Santana’s wife, Jessica Montanez, 27, was arrested together with Jonathan Román, 25, the night of Aug. 16, 2011, after placing half of an aluminum post in the trunk of a Nissan Sentra and the other half through the sliding roof of the small car.

“Stealing metal and scrap metal is a national epidemic. However, we had never seen a case as daring as this one,” said Carl Zogby, a spokesman for Hialeah’s Police Department. “We had never seen anyone loading a post cut to pieces in a passenger car. How could they think that no one would notice?”

The incident came to light in the wake of a political controversy in Hialeah after revealing the video taped by Santana in which former police officer Glenn Rice mocks the candidacy of Santana, a disabled 30-year-old who weighs nearly 500 pounds.

The police report on the electric pole incident said that Montanez, who lives with Santana in West Hialeah, said she gave Román a ride in exchange for the price of gas.

When he arrived at the 1000 block of Hialeah Drive, Román began to cut the pole, worth $4,800, with a power saw. The report said that Román told police that he expected to get about $200 from selling the parts of the post as raw material.

Santana said that Montanez — whom he married five years ago —went to pick up Román the night of the incident because he was a friend “who was going through difficult times.”

“We have a very big heart and my wife went to pick him up,” Santana said. “She didn’t take the post. In fact, her case was dismissed. She is my wife and I am with her and the fact is that authorities found that she was not to blame.”

Zogby said that Román was jailed on charges of violating parole. In the case of Montanez, an extrajudicial agreement was reached after she agreed to take part in a rehabilitation program.

Santana said that releasing the information about Montanez’s case was part of a campaign to discredit him in his run for mayor.

“All this is political retaliation,” Santana said. “I am an open book and all I want is to serve the people of Hialeah.”

Both Mayor Hernández and police chief Sergio Velazquez have denied that there is any harassment against Santana because of his political candidacy.

Hernández said that the stolen electrical post is “an incredible case.”

“The photos of that crime speak volumes about Santana and the people close to him,” Hernández said.

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