SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) — The mystery of the missing Sweetwater police horse was solved Thursday when it was revealed the horse wasn’t ever really “lost.”

Though the Sweetwater Police Department released a statement Thursday touting the safe return of “Maverick”, new information obtained by CBS4 News and confirmed by a police spokesman indicates the circumstances surrounding the case may have been the result of a miscommunication.

“We did not know of its existence until not too long ago, and an investigation was initiated,” Sweetwater Police Spokesman Lt. Jorge Fernandez deLara said of the horse.

The investigation revealed the 6-year-old black stallion was purchased for $5,000 from a Asbury University in Kentucky in April, when Roberto Fulgueira was still the Chief of Police.

The problem is, the new chief, Jesus Menocal, didn’t know the department even owned a horse until just this week.

“That information was never given to the new administration,” Fernandez deLara explained. “It was lost in transition.”

On Thursday morning, officers showed up at the home of former Sweetwater police officer Richard Pichardo after receiving a tip he was one of the people responsible for the equine acquisition.

Pichardo said he immediately turned the animal over to authorities.

“The horse was delivered here to this property. The horse has never left this property. He’s always been here under my care and attention,” he explained exclusively to CBS4 News.

Pichardo said the plan was to start a mounted patrol unit with a horse paid for by donations, but the idea quickly took a back seat to other pressing matters in the city, including the arrest of suspended mayor Manny Maroño, and FBI investigation, and Fulgueira’s retirement.

“By that time the whole destruction of Sweetwater occurred,” Pichardo said. “Unfortunately, the mayor had his circumstances, and that situation just basically stopped the whole thing.”

Pichardo said he was spending $250 a month on food for the animal.

After leaving the department in late September, he wrote a letter to Fulgueira on October 2nd asking that the animal be picked up from his property.

“I ask that you make this a priority, since my income will be limited and continuing to sponsor this horse will not be possible for me much longer,” Pichardo wrote.

That letter was never passed along to Menocal, prompting the investigation into Maverick’s whereabouts.

He’s now being cared for by a veterinarian, until he can finally hit the street as the newest “official” member of the Sweetwater police force.

Even though Maverick is safe and sound, the investigation continues.

Lauren Pastrana

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