Breaking: FBI arrests top FEMA administrator, two others for Hurricane Maria relief fraud

Breaking: FBI arrests top FEMA administrator, two others for Hurricane Maria relief fraud

So was Donald Trump right about corruption in Puerto Rico’s use of relief funds? Kinda. The FBI arrested one of the top administrators of FEMA and the CEO of a contractor on wire fraud and bribery charges, along with a lower-level FEMA official today for fraud and bribery involving Hurricane Maria relief. The contractor got a $1.8 billion contract for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s notoriously unreliable electrical infrastructure, which the Department of Justice says came by way of bribery (via Twitchy):

Two former FEMA officials, including one of the agency’s top administrators, were arrested on federal fraud and bribery charges in connection with their work in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.

The FBI also arrested the ex-president of Cobra Acquisitions, contracted to work with federal officials on the restoration of Puerto Rico’s power grid, which sustained widespread damages in the storm.

CBS’ reporter in Puerto Rico, David Begnaud, tweeted out the Department of Justice press release on the arrest and indictments. Begnaud also named names, as well as published their pictures. He also notes that Donald Trump has been vocal about suspected corruption in regard to Hurricane Maria relief, and that this tends to corroborate those suspicions:

Trump’s accusations usually are directed at officials in Puerto Rico rather than the federal government. Nonetheless, this semi-corroboration of Trump’s longstanding accusations might account for the light media coverage of these arrests. It’s been a busy news day thus far, but as of 1:30 pm ET, only Begnaud and an NBC affiliate in San Francisco bothered to report on these arrests. That seems a little strange for fraud involving such a controversial topic like Hurricane Maria relief.

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.

If they are indeed guilty, perhaps this will serve as a lesson for others hoping to corrupt the disaster-relief system for personal profit. It certainly would help matters if such indictments got more attention from the media, however. Kudos to Begnaud and NBC’s Bay Area affiliate for taking it seriously.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Video