Former top FEMA official busted for taking bribes after Hurricane Maria

Former top FEMA official busted for taking bribes after Hurricane Maria

Fox News Flash top headlines for September 10 are here.

Two former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials have been arrested and charged with federal fraud and bribery in connection with their work in Puerto Rico following the devastating destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

Federal authorities arrested Ahsha Tribble, FEMA's former deputy regional administrator, who worked in Puerto Rico after the storm, and Donald Keith Ellison, former president of energy company Cobra Acquisitions.

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.

Cobra was awarded two contracts worth about $1.8 billion combined, according to court documents filed on September 3.

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In one instance, Tribble threatened in February of a year ago to withhold FEMA aid from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority if it did not hire Cobra to fix damage from an explosion, despite officials' at the public utility saying they could get the work done for a lower price. Work completed by Cobra for the island's damaged electrical infrastructure was paid through the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority by federal funds from FEMA. Cobra Acquisitions and Cobra Energy are subsidiaries of Oklahoma City-based Mammoth Energy Services Inc.

Ellison led Cobra while it bid for and secured $1.8 billion in contracts to help restore the island's electrical grid after Hurricane Maria, while Tribble oversaw the recovery process for the agency. "Instead, they made a decision 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", said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, the top federal prosecutor in Puerto Rico.

"All government officials are entrusted with performing their duties honestly and ethically".

Tribble is in a "non-duty, non-pay status", a FEMA official said, but FEMA said it can not comment on personnel matters and is cooperating with prosecutors. "As such, the Agency takes allegations of employee misconduct extremely seriously and holds all employees to the highest ethical standards - requiring them to protect government resources and place public service over private gain in everything they do". Tribble was separately charged with Travel Act violations, while Ellison was separately charged with making false statements to federal agents. They include charges against Tribble and Ellison of conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud and disaster fraud.

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