Puerto Rico's leading federal prosecutor, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, announced on Tuesday that three people were arrested as part of a federal probation scheme involving former FEMA employees and hurricane relief funds.
"At the expense of our suffering … they took advantage of the most vulnerable times that Puerto Rico residents went through to enrich themselves," Rodriguez told a news conference in Spanish.
The three are Ahsha Tribel, who was a FEMA deputy regional deputy administrator and is now on unpaid leave from the agency, former FEMA assistant staffer Yovanda Patterson and Donald Keith Ellison, former president of the Oklahoma-based COBRA Acquisition operating in Puerto Rico as the main contractor for the island's power as it sought to restore and restore the power grid destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 201
They face 15, including wire and disaster fraud, asconspiracy to compromise
Tribble, Patterson and Ellison had come to Puerto Rico in October 2017 as part of efforts of the federal government to restore the hurricane, in particular to restore the power grid in the United States. Its destruction led to a second delay in the world.
According to a charge filed last week, both Tribble and Patterson received gifts such as a hotel stay, access to credit cards and an apartment in New York in return for Ellison's assistance and COBRA acquisition.
The Justice Department said in a statement the charge against defendants claim to have used Tribble's position at FEMA for "United States fraud."
The acquisition of COBRA received two contracts worth over $ 1.8 billion combined, while Tribble oversaw FEMA's work and Allison was president of COBRA.
It is not clear how much of this common energy services company has billed power to Puerto Rico or how much hurricane relief can be used. However, work under the two COBRA contracts is expected to be paid through the federal authority of Puerto Rico with federal funds from FEMA.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General, with the support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the arrests Tuesday morning: the Florida Tribunal, Ellison in Oklahoma and Patterson in California, said Rodriguez.
"Corruption in DHS and FEMA will not be tolerated," James Long of the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday.
Rodriguez described a case in which the Tribble allegedly pressured senior authorities in Puerto Rico to use COBRA employees instead of government officials to repair a power station in San Juan that broke out in February 2018.
"While there is no cure to rid the corruption community permanently, there are some powerful antidotes, namely arrests and prosecutions," says the FBI's Douglas A. Leff. – Fast and sure justice will be given to all, that steal funds from those in need birth. "
employee of FEMA, told NBC News that they remember that they were meeting with Tribble last year, where she announced work on COBRA.
While Tribble is not working in Puerto Rico as a senior FEMA employee, it is "currentl y unpaid, no-pay" status with the agency, a FEMA spokesman said.
Paterson was later hired by COBRA after helping to manage energy company contracts and misrepresenting his FEMA salary to get a higher salary at COBRA, details of the prosecution.
FEMA told NBC News in a statement that the agency "could not comment on personnel matters; however, the Agency cooperates fully with federal investigators."
The Puerto Rico authority also said that the agency was cooperating with the investigation. , adding that contracts worth more than $ 1.8 billion were canceled in March when "they learned of possible irregularities involving efforts being made as part of the process of rebuilding Hurricane Maria."
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Laura Strickler Contributed.