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US Indicts FEMA Delegates in Puerto Rico for Accepting Bribes After Hurricane Maria

The U.S. Justice Division Tuesday declared corruption charges against a senior government delegate and a contractor who supervised the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s electrical framework after Hurricane Maria crushed the island in 2017.

In a 15-count accusation, U.S. prosecutors allege that Ahsha Tribble, who supervised the Federal Emergency Management Company’s efforts to restore electricity after the hurricane, allowed helicopter rides, hotel rooms and different bribes from Donald Ellison, who was then president of Cobra Acquisitions, which was agreed to do the work.

In return, Tribble pressed FEMA and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to steer work to Ellison’s agency, prosecutors said. PREPA stated that Cobra was given $1.1 billion of an agreed $1.9 billion. The contracts were dropped by the utility in March when it “became conscious of possible violations,” PREPA stated Tuesday.

Ellison, who left Cobra in June, denies misconduct and pleads not responsible, his attorney William Leone mentioned in a telephone interview.

Prosecutors further charged Jovanda Patterson, FEMA ex-deputy chief of workers, who they say evaluated Cobra’s work even as she was trying to get a job with the firm.

The U.S. delegates have put tighter spending controls on federal money allocated for Puerto Rico’s sluggish recovery efforts.

The charge follows a recent tweet by President Donald Trump calling Puerto Rico “probably the most corrupt places on earth,” while his White House blamed the island for misusing federal money.

Almost $42.7 billion of federal funds have been earmarked to Puerto Rico, which has acquired $13.8 billion thus far.

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