SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Police said they expect the imminent arrest of two beauty pageant employees, as they wrapped up an investigation into a plot to sabotage a Puerto Rican contestant by dousing her garments with pepper spray.
The pageant's security director and a catwalk coordinator, alleged backers of a rival to beauty queen Ingrid Marie Rivera, will likely be charged with assault in coming days after detectives consult with prosecutors, police spokesman Lt. Eddie Hernandez said Tuesday.
The scandal broke when Rivera claimed that saboteurs conspired to torpedo her pageant bid at November's Miss Puerto Rico Universe competition by tainting her clothes and makeup kit with pepper spray, causing her to break out in hives.
The 24-year-old managed to stay composed onstage but later applied ice bags to her face and body after she said she swelled up and broke out in hives. She won the crown nonetheless.
Last month, a black gown and the bathing suit that Rivera wore during the competition's final round tested positive for pepper spray. Earlier a different dress and a makeup brush tested negative.
Investigators said the pepper spray was likely applied when contestants and their assistants left the changing room.
Pageant organizers will screen volunteers and employees more carefully in the future, director Magali Febles said.
The tale of beauty pageant backstabbing garnered worldwide media attention. Since the incident, Rivera has been interviewed on TV programs including "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."