Nelson Soto from American Petroleum Recipient of the FBI 2017 Director’s Community Leadership Award
SAN JUAN, PR—On Tuesday, March 13, 2018, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Douglas Leff, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) San Juan Field Office, presented Mr. Nelson Soto of American Petroleum with the 2017 FBI Director’s Community Leadership award (DCLA). On Friday, April 20, 2018, FBI Director Christopher Wray will present Mr. Soto with the award during a formal ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C.
The Community Leadership Award was created in 1990 to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs, and civil rights education and prevention. The FBI presents the award to community leaders who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to their local communities through service.
Mr. Soto is single-handedly responsible for the FBI San Juan Field Office’s ability to sustain operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Mr. Soto is the owner of American Petroleum; a very large fuel company that not only operates gas stations, but also transports bulk fuel shipments of both gasoline and diesel all over the island of Puerto Rico.
Immediately after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the field office began conducting operations in order to locate and ensure the well-being of FBI personnel and family members throughout the entire island. Within two days, vehicles being used to conduct these emergency operations and generators running to support critical infrastructure began to run low on fuel. On an almost crippled island, in a total blackout with no communication system, a fuel crisis was quickly developing. As gasoline companies strained to reestablish operations, gas stations throughout the island became hesitant to reopen as reported armed robberies increased.
The fuel crisis was affecting the public’s safety by impacting local police from patrolling the streets and emergency vehicles from reaching affected neighborhoods, which caused a major standstill on Puerto Rico’s recovery.
Mr. Soto, whose business was closed at the time due to the devastation of the hurricane, reopened after FBI special agents visited his place of business and explained to him the critical need of fuel to support emergency operations throughout the island. Not only did Mr. Soto open his gas station for emergency personnel conducting recovery efforts, but with the assistance of FBI special agents and Task Force Officers, he initiated escorted shipments of diesel to locations such as hospitals, fire stations, and other locations critical to emergency operations.
Mr. Soto’s commitment and unconditional support was vital to not only the FBI San Juan Field Office in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but to all federal, local, and emergency recovery operations. Without a doubt, Mr. Soto deserves to be recognized for his heroic support as he was directly responsible for saving countless lives and contributed greatly to the restoration of the public’s safety as Puerto Rico moved towards recovery.