Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Maria, Mofongo And Malice

The most corrupt administration in American history continues as we find out now that of course rebuilding Puerto Rico's power grid after Hurricane Maria was going to be a massive grift job, and of course former FEMA officials were on the take to the tune of thousands.

A former top administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was arrested on Tuesday in a major federal corruption investigation that found that the official took bribes from the president of a company that secured $1.8 billion in federal contracts to repair Puerto Rico’s shredded electrical grid after Hurricane Maria.

Federal authorities arrested Ahsha Tribble, FEMA’s former deputy administrator for the region that includes Puerto Rico, and Donald Keith Ellison, the former president of Cobra Acquisitions, prosecutors in Puerto Rico announced. They were accused of conspiring to defraud the federal government, among other charges.

A second FEMA employee, Jovanda R. Patterson, who worked as a deputy chief of staff in Puerto Rico under Ms. Tribble and was later hired by Cobra, was also arrested, said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez, the United States attorney for Puerto Rico.

Ms. Tribble and Mr. Ellison had a “close personal relationship,” Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said, in which Mr. Ellison lavished Ms. Tribble with gifts in exchange for her to use her influence inside FEMA to give Cobra an advantage.

The gifts ranged from a helicopter tour over Puerto Rico to securing an apartment in New York, the authorities said. They included airplane tickets, including one first class ticket from San Juan, the Puerto Rican capital, to New York, and hotel stays in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.

Mr. Ellison and Ms. Tribble traveled together and stayed in the same room, Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said.

In return for the gifts, Ms. Tribble is accused of performing official acts to advance Cobra’s interests. For example, according to the indictment, in February 2018, after the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported an explosion at a transmission center, Ms. Tribble insisted that the public utility hire Cobra to make repairs or risk not getting reimbursed by FEMA — even though leaders of the utility insisted they could do the same work at a far lower cost.
“They took advantage of one of the most vulnerable moments in the history of Puerto Rico to enrich themselves,” Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said.

President Trump has repeatedly cast Puerto Rico’s leaders as incompetent and corrupt. Tuesday’s arrests, however, did not involve any Puerto Ricans, but rather a longtime federal employee now serving under the Trump administration.

Six people, including two senior Puerto Rican government officials, were arrested by the federal authorities in a separate case in July on charges of steering $15.5 million in federal contracts to politically connected consultants. The case stirred unrest against the governor at the time, Ricardo A. Rosselló. A leak of hundreds of pages of a private text chat between him and his inner circle days later unleashed two weeks of mass protests that led to Mr. Rosselló’s resignation.

Investigators in the latest case found no evidence that any staff member at the power authority, commonly known as PREPA, was involved in the scheme, prosecutors said.

Cobra is a subsidiary of Mammoth Energy Services. Peter Mirijanian, a Mammoth spokesman, said the company has been working with the authorities.

“Mammoth is aware of and has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into Ms. Tribble and Mr. Ellison and will continue to do so,” he said.

Nope, this was all FEMA, getting rich the way Trump does.  The only difference is that nobody's going to arrest him.

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