In the time following a natural disaster, especially one as bad as Puerto Rico’s current situation after Hurricane Maria, political issues should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. However, there are reports surfacing that local officials are improperly distributing aid only to their political allies, and not to the public as is needed.
The FBI has confirmed that it is looking into allegations of misconduct with FEMA disaster relief supplies, with local officials only distributing those supplies to those who have voted for them, or who have given campaign donations.
FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio confirmed the allegations to The Daily Caller on Thursday.
“People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns.”
Osorio further explained, “They’re supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first–people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not.”
What is the FBI doing?
“So what we’re doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We’re just corroborating these allegations.”
The allegations are not that the mayors themselves are doing the withholding, but their underlings (that should come as a surprise to no one; have to maintain plausible deniability, right?).
As federal officials drop aid, then pull out of the area, the local officials are then reportedly handing out the supplies to their buddies and leaving the rest of the citizens hanging out to dry.
“We’ll distribute the [goods and supplies] because we have to follow certain protocols, and that’s what [local officials] said they were doing, when they were waiting for federal officials to leave, and the allegations are they are handing [relief] out through back doors and stuff like that to their buddies,” Osorio stated.
As of now, the FBI is aware of six municipalities among Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities where such activity is allegedly happening. The U.S. federal prosecutor on the island, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, announced on WAPA radio last Sunday she is looking into these claims and is ready to criminally prosecute any official who withholds relief.
Rodriguez told El Vocero that anyone who retains supplies for their own purposes would be criminally prosecuted. There are currently suspicions that one local official, Luis Ortiz Lugo, has been appropriating supplies illegally.
“I do not know him and I do not know the facts. I do not think it would be proper to comment on that. We are not going to individualize it. But, anyone who is staying with supplies that he knows is a violation of federal and state law, Rodriguez stated.
Lugo was suspected of retaining supplies, but when his scheme came to light via video allegations, he quickly got rid of his inventory.
Yesterday there was a government official from a municipality who gave everything he had to deliver very fast and prevented us from having to accuse him. And I suspect that now there will be many more who do not want to keep the supplies. But, definitely what we get will be processed.”
Last month, Rodriguez’s office created the “Puerto Rico Disaster Fraud Task Force” to combat such chicanery.
A free nation cannot tolerate any government official doling out emergency supplies to their allies only. Such reprehensible behavior should be prosecuted relentlessly. It’s that kind of corruption that has created the crisis in Puerto Rico that they are currently in. It must be rooted out if the island wants to recover financially.