Lead Puerto Rican Public Prosecutor Rosa Emilia Rodríguez said Tuesday that three people were arrested in a federal investigation into alleged fraud involving former FEMA officials and hurricane aid funds.
"At the expense of our suffering … They have exploited the most vulnerable moments that the people of Puerto Rico have experienced to enrich themselves," said Rodríguez at a press conference in Spanish.
The three persons are Ahsha Tribble, a FEMA deputy regional government Former FEMA staff member Jovanda Patterson and Donald Keith Ellison, former president of COBRA Acquisition, an Oklahoma-based energy company headquartered in Puerto Rico as the prime contractor for the Energy Authority Island is currently under unpaid leave to restore and rebuild the power grid destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 201
Tribble, Patterson, and Ellison came to Puerto Rico in October 2017 as part of the federal government's hurricane restoration efforts to specifically restore the United States territory's electricity grid. Its destruction had caused the second longest power outage in the world.
According to last week's indictment, Tribble and Patterson received gifts such as hotel accommodation, access to credit cards, and an apartment in New York to help Ellison and COBRA Acquisition land hurricane recovery contracts in Puerto Rico.
The Department of Justice issued an indictment of the defendants for using Tribbey's positions in FEMA to "cheat the United States."
COBRA Acquisition Receives Two Contracts Above $ 1.8 While Tribble oversaw FEMA's work and Ellison was COBRA's president, it is unclear how much of this sum the energy services company charged the Puerto Rican Energy Authority or how much funds could have been used for hurricane assistance. However, it was expected that the work done under both COBRA contracts would be paid for by the power authority of Puerto Rico using federal funds from FEMA.
The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, with the support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, The arrests were made on Tuesday morning: Tribble in Florida, Ellison in Oklahoma, and Patterson in California, Rodríguez said. They are taken to Puerto Rico to be tried in court.
"Corruption in DHS and FEMA will not be tolerated," said James Long of the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday.
Rodríguez described a case in which Tribble allegedly pressurized senior executives of the Puerto Rican Authority of Power to deploy COBRA employees instead of government officials to repair a substation in San Juan that exploded in February 2018.
"No cure is known to permanently eliminate it. There are certain effective antidotes in the society of corruption, including arrests and prosecutions," said Douglas A. Leff of the FBI. Fast and secure justice is given to those who would steal money from the most needy citizens.
A FEMA official told NBC News that she remembers a meeting with Tribble last year to promote COBRA's work.
Tribble does not work in Puerto Rico as a top FEMA official but "current" A FEMA spokeswoman reported that she was not liable to pay and not affordable ".
Patterson was later hired by COBRA after helping to control contracts for the energy services company and misrepresenting her FEMA salary to earn a higher salary at COBRA, Charges.
FEMA told NBC News in a statement that the agency "can not comment on personnel matters, but the agency cooperates fully with federal investigators."
The Puerto Rican Authority also announced that the agency cooperates in the investigation. She added that more than $ 1.8 billion worth of contracts had been canceled in March when "it became known that this was possible irregularities were being made as part of Hurricane Maria's recovery process."  Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.