Feds Nab Top FEMA Admin. in Massive Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria Corruption Scam


Federal authorities arrested a pair of former top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and a Federal Emergency Management Agency contractor in Puerto Rico on Tuesday in a corruption investigation.

Former deputy regional administrator Ahsha Nateef Tribble; Jovanda Patterson, Tribble’s chief of staff; and Donald Keith Ellison, former President of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC, were arrested on charges including “conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud and disaster fraud,” according to CBS News.

The arrests come after two years of Democrats blaming President Donald Trump for criticizing Puerto Rico’s response to Hurricane Maria in 2017 when the storm devastated parts of the U.S. territory.

Tribble was FEMA’s Region II Deputy Regional Administrator assigned to power recovery in the devastated region, according to official documents posted on Twitter by CBS reporter David Begnaud.

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Ellison was president of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC, which CBS reported was “the main contractor for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority” and which “executed two contracts with the agency for a total value of $1.8 billion.”

According to the documents, Patterson resigned from FEMA so that she could work at Cobra Energy, LLC.

The trio allegedly used Tribble’s position and influence to enrich themselves during their deployment to restore Puerto Rico’s power grid after the storm.

That $1.8 billion in contracts was paid to Cobra through the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority using FEMA funds.

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As time passed, the allegation states, Ellison tried to influence Tribble with gifts such as “personal helicopter use, hotel accommodations, airfare, personal security services, and the use of a credit card.”

“In exchange, Tribble performed official acts, including influence, advising, and exerting pressure on PREPA and FEMA officials, in order to award restoration work to COBRA and accelerate payments to COBRA.”

Tribble and Ellison are facing forfeiture of nearly $5 million.

“These defendants were supposed to come to Puerto Rico to help during the recovery after the devastation suffered from Hurricane Maria. 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,” U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez said in a statement, according to CBS.

The arrests and scandal are a blow to anti-Trumpers who claim the president was personally responsible for Puerto Rico’s slow recovery.

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There were already numerous accounts of corruption and incompetence on the island.

The biggest takeaway from this entire debacle is that government is truly terrible at responding to its people’s needs.

Yes, government is necessary for civil society to survive, but not being as directly beholden to the people as private companies, it can be slow, unresponsive, lazy and incompetent without paying nearly as high a price as private firms or individuals.

Any time someone begins talking about the wonders of socialized health care and government-run industry, just remember Hurricane Maria.

CORRECTION, Sep. 16, 2019: The Western Journal has removed “Trump Was Right” from this article’s headline because, after further review, we decided that it overstated the relationship between the president’s previous claims of Puerto Rican corruption and the published findings of this investigation, which speak less about corruption among Puerto Rican officials than about corruption within FEMA, which is a federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security.

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Josh Manning is deputy managing editor for assignment at The Western Journal. He holds a masters in public policy from Harvard University and has a background in higher education.
Josh Manning grew up outside of Memphis, TN and developed a love of history, politics, and government studies thanks to a life-changing history and civics teacher named Mr. McBride.

He holds an MPP from Harvard University and a BA from Lyon College, a small but distinguished liberal arts college where later in his career he served as an interim vice president.

While in school he did everything possible to confront, discomfit, and drive ivy league liberals to their knees.

After a number of years working in academe, he moved to digital journalism and opinion. Since that point, he has held various leadership positions at The Western Journal.

He's married to a gorgeous blonde who played in the 1998 NCAA women's basketball championship game, and he has two teens who hate doing dishes more than poison. He makes life possible for two boxers -- "Hank" Rearden Manning and "Tucker" Carlson Manning -- and a pitbull named Nikki Haley "Gracie" Manning.
MPP from Harvard University, BA from Lyon College
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
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Writing, politics, Christianity, social media curation, higher education, firearms