FEMA officials arrested on hurricane relief fraud charges

The abuse of FEMA funds and the outright deception regarding relief funds for Puerto Rico is well-documented by now.

Following efforts by the Trump administration to curb FEMA corruption, two high-ranking agency officials and a disaster relief contractor have been arrested for their roles in bribery and fraud related to Hurricane Maria relief funding, according to a report from NBC.

Benefitting from Tragedy

Relief money and supplies were pouring into Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, but their benefit was sadly diluted. The reason is that local politicians, contractors, and government officials were looking to enrich themselves wherever possible.

At the heart of this scandal are Donald Keith Ellison — the former president of Cobra Acquisitions, a major disaster relief contractor — and FEMA employees Jovanda R. Patterson and Ahsha Nateef Tribble.

Tribble and Patterson appeared to be hustlers from the outset. According to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, Ellison was using bribes to gain favor with Tribble, who was FEMA’s deputy regional director at the time.

He was providing her with a credit card, hotel accommodations, security services, and airline flights so she could direct as much business as possible to Cobra.

Additionally, in return for the business Tribble was sending to Cobra, Ellison agreed to hire Patterson, who was willing to resign her position for a spot with Cobra.

For her part, Patterson lied to Cobra about her salary history, which in turn resulted in a $160,000/year job offer, far more than she was making at FEMA.

Hurting the People

While all three of these individuals were lining their pockets, the people of Puerto Rico were doing without.

For instance, Tribble awarded the contract for restoring electricity after the Hurricane to Cobra for a whopping $1.8 billion. Considering some parts of the island remain without electricity today, it is a fairly safe assumption to say that Cobra dropped the ball on that assignment.

Ellison has decided to adopt the tactic used by Rep. Menendez (D-NJ) to help himself get out of corruption charges. Like Menendez, Ellison is claiming that he and Tribble were friends, and the things he did for her were nothing more than one chum doing good deeds for another.

Clearly, though, that was not the case here as Tribble was handing out taxpayer money like Halloween candy so she could enjoy the high life.

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