US

FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane Relief

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Puerto Rico received multiple allegations from residents across the island who say local officials in the territory have withheld needed FEMA supplies.

“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,” FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.

Osorio 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.”

He added, “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.”

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According to Osorio, there are claims that despite delivery of hurricane relief by FEMA, assisted by other federal officials like the FBI to town centers, for example, local officials will first distribute the relief to their political allies once federal officials leave the area.

“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.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, when asked by The Daily Caller about the allegations being made about FEMA aid being withheld by local officials, responded, “I can only tell you that the governor [Ricardo Rosselló] is in charge. I’ve asked the federal officials. They keep saying under the Stafford Act the governor is in charge.”

Another member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, New York Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat told TheDC, “Well, anybody that engages in that kind of action whether civilian or representative should be looked at seriously because that’s unforgivable.”

As of now, the FBI is aware of six municipalities among Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities where such activity is allegedly happening–including San Juan, Arecibo, Patillas, Aguadilla and Vieques. 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. (RELATED: US Prosecutor To Investigate Puerto Rican Officials Accused Of Stopping Aid From Reaching People)

According to El Vocero, when asked Wednesday about one Puerto Rican representative suspected of withholding relief, Rodriguez replied, “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 withholding supplies is in violation of federal and state law.”

Rodriguez continued, “That has not changed. The (criminal prosecution) remains the same situation. Yesterday there was a government official from a municipality who gave everything he had to deliver very fast and it prevented us from charging 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.”

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*updated with names of municipalities where allegations are coming from — 10/13/17