FEMA officials, contractor accused of hurricane relief fraud

Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (September 10, 2019) — Federal authorities said Tuesday they have arrested two former officials of the Federal Emergency Management Authority and the former president of a major disaster relief contractor, accusing them of bribery and fraud in the efforts to restore electricity to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico said that the then president of Cobra Acquisitions LLC, Donald Keith Ellison, gave FEMA’s deputy regional director airline flights, hotel accommodations, personal security services and the use of a credit card.

In return, Ahsha Nateef Tribble “used any opportunity she had to benefit Cobra,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, including accelerating payments to the company, pressuring local power authority officials to award it contracts.

Ellison also gave a job to a friend of Tribble, Jovanda R. Patterson, who had been FEMA deputy chief of staff in Puerto Rico before resigning in July 2018 to work for Cobra Energy LLC, according to the indictment. Cobra Acquisitions and Cobra Energy are subsidiaries of Oklahoma City-based Mammoth Energy Services Inc.

Tribble was FEMA’s primary leader in trying to restore electric power after Hurricane Maria destroyed the power grid in 2017. Cobra was given contracts worth about $1.8 billion.

Authorities said Tribble was arrested Monday in Florida while Ellison was detained in Oklahoma.

“These defendants were supposed to come to Puerto Rico to help during the recovery after the devastation suffered from Hurricane Maria,” Rodríguez said. “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.”

Rodríguez said that after an explosion at a power plant knocked out power to several towns in February 2018, Tribble pressured power authority officials to use Cobra rather than their own workforce. “She even told them that if they did not use Cobra, FEMA would not reimburse them,” the prosecutor added.

Patterson, meanwhile, was accused of defrauding Cobra by telling the company her salary with FEMA was far larger than it was, and she was offered $160,000 a year to work for Cobra, Rodríguez said.

Comments

We moderate all reader comments, usually within 24 hours of posting (longer on weekends). Please limit your comment to 300 words or less and ensure it addresses the article - NOT another reader's comments. Comments that contain a link (URL), an inordinate number of words in ALL CAPS, rude remarks directed at other readers, or profanity/vulgarity will not be approved. More details

SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWSBRIEF

SUBSCRIBE

VOTE IN OUR POLL

Should the United States use military force against Iran after it attacked Saudi Arabia?

CAST YOUR VOTE

GET PUSH NOTIFICATIONS

SUBSCRIBE

LATEST AP HEADLINES

More than 1,000 rescues, evacuations as Imelda soaks Texas
Trump scores a victory in bicoastal battle over tax returns
Buttigieg calls Warren 'extremely evasive' on health taxes
Sanford takes his first 2020 campaign trip to New Hampshire
North Carolina university shooting suspect pleads guilty
In Israel, calls for unity reveal deep divisions after vote
Iran envoy: 'All-out war' to result if hit for Saudi attack
Trump scorns complaint about call with foreign leader

LATEST FROM THE WEB

Yang: We might need to eliminate car ownership
Ocasio-Cortez's latest challenger tells what makes her different from the controversial congresswoman
New Women's March board member booted after two days on the job over anti-Semitic tweets
Time to un-tell the Trayvon lies
Princeton study confirms: Gog and Magog a realistic scenario

CARTOON OF THE DAY

Cartoon of the Day
NEXT STORY
Buttigieg calls Warren 'extremely evasive' on health taxes

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (September 19, 2019) -- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is accusing his 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren of being “extremely evasive” when it comes to explaining how she’d finance a universal health care plan.