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Photo: US Department of Defense

A FEMA official who was in charge of rebuilding Puerto Rico's electrical grid after Hurricane Maria was one of three people arrested Tuesday and charged in a great big bribery scheme. The official, Ahsha Tribble -- yes -- is accused of taking bribes to steer business to Cobra Acquisitions, an Oklahoma-based company that got $1.8 billion to help restore the island's power grid. Also arrested were Cobra's CEO, Donald Keith Ellison, and Jovanda Patterson, a FEMA staffer who quit the agency to take a job with Cobra. To add to the story, Ellison and Tribble appear to have been in a romantic relationship. As of press time, it doesn't appear federal prosecutors plan to introduce as evidence any gross Rule 34 fan art of human-tribble sex.

The three have been charged with 15 counts on a variety of charges, including wire fraud, disaster fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and interplanetary transportation of dangerous animals. Not really, we are just making another "Trouble with Tribbles" joke there.

The New York Times details the hinky arrangements alleged against Tribble and Ellison by US Attorney for Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez:


According to prosecutors, Mr. Ellison lavished Ms. Tribble with gifts in exchange for her influence inside FEMA that was used to give Cobra an advantage. The "stream of benefits" ranged from a helicopter ride over Puerto Rico to the securing of an apartment in New York, the authorities said.

They also included personal security services; the use of one of Mr. Ellison's credit cards; 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.

The happy grifters allegedly tried to hide gifts to Tribble by putting them on Ellison's credit card, and Tribble also used only her private email and a burner cell phone to communicate with Ellison. As a close friend of Tribble, Patterson got some goodies, too, reports NBC News, and she too helped steer work to Cobra. The fanfiction.com group "Close Friends of Tribble" had no comment, nor did the fictional nemesis of G.I. Joe.

Miraculously, the scheme didn't in any way involve those other cost-inflating grifters, Whitefish Energy, which hired subcontractors at ridiculously high rates -- because, remember, they were a company with only like two guys? -- and were eventually voted off the island. But the Times does note that

Cobra received a deal whose terms were virtually identical to Whitefish's — yet it managed to escape widespread public attention.

Guess that means Cobra had a cloaking device, although that's actually from a totally different episode about Romulans, anyway.

The Times appears to have taken particular pleasure in writing this paragraph about the contretemps:

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 working on the island under the Trump administration.

In one fun example of the favors Tribble allegedly did for Ellison, the feds say that when a substation exploded, leaving several areas without power, Tribble lobbied for Cobra to get the job of repairing it. That's even though the island's utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said it could do the job for less money. The prosecutors also note there's no evidence any Puerto Rican officials were involved in any of the (alleged) frauding, even though funding for Cobra's contracts was steered through both FEMA and PREPA.

In another fun detail, NBC News notes that when Patterson was preparing to move from FEMA to Cobra, she "misrepresented her FEMA salary in order to get a higher salary at COBRA," according to the indictment. Patterson may well qualify for a job in the Trump administration for that trick; talk about a spirit of Enterprise!

The Times also nabbed some choice quotes from Ellison's attorney, Cyrano Jones William Leone, who took pains to

[describe] his client as a former Army Ranger and a "decorated war hero" who had done tours in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

How can anyone do such besmirches to a WAR HERO! Besides, says Leone, the main contract to Cobra was awarded before Tribble came to Puerto Rico, and it passed regular audits. Besides, a bit of romance is no crime!

"There is nothing wrong with this contract or having a close personal relationship with someone who works at FEMA," he said. "Every aspect of this contract was audited, reviewed and approved by so many levels of government bureaucracy, I don't think any one person could have influenced how it was done."

Also, he's expected to argue that even if the deals were technically "illegal," his client should get some leniency. If Ellison hadn't been a Klingon disguised as a human, the plot to poison the quadrotriticale never would have been uncovered.

[NYT / NBC News / Photo: US Department of Defense, by Master Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts, USAF]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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