FEMA Officials, Charged With Fraud From Hurricane Maria in PR

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Remember we told you there was something deeply amiss with the relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria? Now two FEMA officials and a contractor have been arrested for fraud regarding that situation. There are probably more involved, but at least three are under indictment.

FEMA officials
Screenshot of Maria aftermath via Gizmodo

Their names are: Ahsha Nateef Tribble, a FEMA Region II, Deputy Regional Administrator; Donald Keith Ellison, former President of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC; and Jovanda R. Patterson, a.k.a. “Jo/Jojo,” former FEMA Deputy Chief of Staff , according to the press release. All of these people were charged with helping Puerto Ricans recover, but they enriched themselves instead.

“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.” David Begnaud

By name they are: Ahsha Nateef Tribble, a FEMA Region II, Deputy Regional Administrator; Donald Keith Ellison, former President of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC; and Jovanda R. Patterson, a.k.a. “Jo/Jojo,” former FEMA Deputy Chief of Staff pic.twitter.com/b8aHHE48ZD

Hot Air reported“Two of these three defendants are big deals. Donald Keith Ellison was CEO of Cobra Acquisitions until June of this year, a company big enough to bid on a $1.8 billion government contract … in one way or another. Ahsha Nateef Tribble was FEMA’s Deputy Regional Administrator and assigned to run the power rebuilding effort in Puerto Rico. Jovanda Patterson was no slouch either, being assigned as FEMA’s Deputy Chief of Staff in San Juan — until she went to work for Ellison in July of last year, a move that might have tipped off the FBI about the potential for shenanigans. All three could face 30-year sentences, but likely will be subject to lesser penalties if convicted, as are most first-time offenders.”

The two FEMA officials and a contractor were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery of public officials; acts affecting a personal financial interest; false statements; disaster fraud; honest services wire fraud, Travel Act violations, and wire fraud, according to the DOJ.

“From October 2017 to April 2019, Tribble and Ellison developed a personal relationship wherein Ellison provided Tribble with things of value with the intent to influence Tribble’s performance of official acts. Ellison provided Tribble with personal helicopter use, hotel accommodations, airfare, personal security services, and the use of a credit card. As part of Ellison’s pattern of providing things of value to Tribble, he also secured employment within COBRA’s affiliated companies for her friend, defendant Patterson. In exchange, Tribble performed official acts, including influencing, advising, and exerting pressure on PREPA and FEMA officials, in order to award restoration work to COBRA and accelerate payments to COBRA.”  DOJ press release

The restoration of power was a major concern…but certain officials stood in the way because of sheer greed. Puerto Rico had a power infrastructure that was inefficient in the first place, but after Hurricane Maria, it was a total disaster. People’s lives hung in the balance while corruption ran rampant. The power situation was only one area. Trump was right – corruption stood in the way of helping the people.

FEMA officials and the contractor were just part of the problem. Was there more corruption? Likely, as we reported from people on the ground that shipments of supplies were being taken and rerouted away from needed destinations.

Lack of distribution of medical and other supplies, water left to go bad in the hot sun, stranded residents, poor PR government coordination with NGOs, all of these things worked together with actual corruption to make Puerto Rico a living hell after Hurricane Maria.

“While there is no known cure to permanently rid society of corruption, there are certain powerful antidotes, namely, arrests and prosecutions.”   Douglas A. Leff, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

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