Americas

Hurricane relief officials charged with bribery, fraud

A Federal Emergency Management Agency official was arrested on Tuesday as part of a federal investigation into bribery and fraud during Puerto Rico’s post-Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.

Ahsha Nateef Tribble ― a deputy regional administrator leading FEMA’s power restoration work after the September 2017 storm ― was indicted Tuesday by the Justice Department for allegedly taking bribes from Donald Keith Ellison, the former head of the energy company Cobra, which was contracted to do electric recovery work after the hurricane.

According to the DOJ, Cobra received two contracts valued at around $1.8 billion from Puerto Rico’s electricity authority, PREPA, paid with federal funds from FEMA.

Tribble, Ellison and former FEMA employee Jovanda R. Patterson were all arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and “disaster fraud,” among others. The Justice Department says all three went to Puerto Rico after the storm in late 2017 and “used Tribble’s positions in FEMA to benefit and enrich themselves and defraud the United States.” 

(Tribble was placed on administrative leave in May amid the investigation, and is currently in “non-duty, non-pay status,” according to FEMA.)  

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