Puerto Rico

Officials Responsible for Puerto Rico Recovery Charged With Bribery, Fraud

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

When the Trump regime's half-assed recovery effort launched in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded dubious contracts to suspicious vendors and companies that raised a lot of questions about how recovery money was being spent.

Among those companies -- a couple names you may remember -- were Whitefish Energy and Cobra Acquisitions, neither of which had any experience with the kind of work they were being hired to do on the island of Puerto Rico or the scale of operations to tackle it. WhiteFish, as you may recall, had literally only two employees.

The former president of Cobra Acquisitions along with one of FEMA's regional directors and another former FEMA official have now been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud, among other things, in connection with those dubious contract we first discussed here almost two years ago.

From CNN:

Ahsha Nateef Tribble, a FEMA deputy regional administrator who'd been sent to the island to lead power recovery efforts, is accused of taking helicopter rides and hotel rooms from the president of the contracting firm Cobra Acquisitions LLC, while "influencing, advising, and exerting pressure" on FEMA and the local power authority to award restoration contracts, worth nearly $2 billion, to the company, according to an indictment announced Tuesday. [...]

The former president of Cobra, Donald Keith Ellison, as well as a second FEMA official who left the organization in 2018, were also arrested and are charged in the indictment.

Ellison served as the president of Cobra until June. According to the Justice Department, Cobra was the main contractor for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority for recovery work following the storm.

The company had received two contracts worth $1.85 billion from the power authority with federal funds from FEMA.

Tribble and Ellison developed a "personal relationship" as they worked on the recovery effort, and Ellison provided her with "personal helicopter use, hotel accommodations, airfare, personal security services, and the use of a credit card," DOJ said.

Ellison also arranged a job for Tribble's friend, the other co-defendant and a former FEMA deputy chief of staff assigned to San Juan, Jovanda R. Patterson, at a company affiliated with Cobra.

Those fishy contracts that made us all scratch our heads at the time weren't just fishy; they were criminal.

A culture of corruption permeates the Trump White House and filters down to federal agencies where political appointees are free to do almost anything they want to as long as they don't get caught.

Trump's regime is probably doing things right now that we won't learn about until they're gone.

  • muselet

    I can think of few things more despicable than people who grift in the wake of a natural disaster.

    –alopecia

    • Draxiar

      They are ghouls. It blows my mind at how doing the right thing just seems to be so damn hard for these people. I never have a good night’s sleep if I did anything close to this.

  • gescove

    “Trump’s regime is probably doing things right now that we won’t learn about until they’re gone.” Fixed it.