By Jon Dougherty for The National Sentinel
(NationalSentinel) Federal authorities have arrested former top officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as a FEMA contractor following a corruption investigation stemming from mismanagement during hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
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Former deputy regional administrator Ahsha Nateef Tribble; Jovanda Patterson, Tribble’s chief of staff; and Donald Keith Ellison, former President of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC, were arrested on charges including “conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud and disaster fraud,” according to CBS News.
The arrests come following two years’ worth of complaints and blame game politics by Democrats who accused President Donald Trump of inadequately responding to damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017 when the storm devastated a large portion of the Caribbean island, which is a U.S. territory.
The president, meanwhile, has spent the same amount of time defending his administration’s response and blaming Puerto Rico for a botched emergency response and the subsequent long recovery period.
The arrests this week appear to vindicate him, not his critics.
BREAKING: The FEMA official in Puerto Rico, in charge of power restoration after Hurricane Maria, has been arrested by the FBI, as has the fmr. CEO of Cobra Energy (which got $1.8B in contracts) & a 2nd FEMA official…all accused of enriching themselves & defrauding the fed govt pic.twitter.com/bhl2a4hi2D
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 10, 2019
Tribble was FEMA’s Region II Deputy Regional Administrator. He was assigned to guide recovery in the devastated region, according to official documents posted on Twitter by CBS reporter David Begnaud.
Ellison, meanwhile, was president of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC, which the network said was “the main contractor for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority” and which “executed two contracts with the agency for a total value of $1.8 billion.”
According to the documents posted online, Patterson resigned from FEMA so that she could go to work at Cobra Energy, LLC.
The three of them allegedly utilized Tribble’s position and power to enrich themselves during their deployment to the storm-ravaged island to restore its destroyed power grid following Maria.
The $1.8 billion on contract awards was paid to Cobra through the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority with FEMA — taxpayer — funds.
As time went on, according to the charges, Ellison attempted to influence Tribble with gifts such as “personal helicopter use, hotel accommodations, airfare, personal security services, and the use of a credit card.”
“In exchange, Tribble performed official acts, including influence, advising, and exerting pressure on PREPA and FEMA officials, in order to award restoration work to COBRA and accelerate payments to COBRA.”
Now, Tribble and Ellison are facing forfeiture of some $5 million.
“These defendants were supposed to come to Puerto Rico to help during the recovery after the devastation suffered from Hurricane Maria. Instead, they decided to take advantage of the precarious conditions of our electric power grid and engaged in a bribery and honest services wire fraud scheme in order to enrich themselves illegally,” U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez said in a statement, according to CBS.
The arrests and subsequent scandal are a blow to political enemies of the president who claim he was responsible for Puerto Rico’s slow recovery.
Image Credit: USDA photo