The FBI is investigating allegations that Puerto Rican officials are passing out Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supplies based on “political loyalty,” according to Congressional letters sent to the head of each department.
Three GOP representatives and Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico sent letters Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FEMA Administrator William Long requesting a briefing on Puerto Rican aid and recovery efforts by Oct. 23.
“With so many residents still in grave need of basic supplies, it is essential that assistance from the federal government is provided in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” the letters said. “The public’s confidence in the integrity of FEMA’s distribution of emergency supplies is also imperative.”
“Allegations that local elected officials are distributing life-sustaining FEMA emergency supplies based on political loyalty is deeply disturbing,” the representatives added. “Any persons misappropriating FEMA emergency supplies should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The FBI San Juan Field Office announced Oct. 13 it had received “numerous” complaints that FEMA aid packages were mishandled and fraudulently distributed. The agency is investigating charges in six of the island’s 78 municipalities.
One complaint alleged a party official filled his personal vehicle with supplies at a government building, then drove away, according to the letter.
Video posted online Monday shows Puerto Rican Secretary of State Luis Rivera Martin digging through mounds of FEMA packages thrown away after he received reports that supplies were being wasted.
Martin later spoke to CBS News about his discovery.
“We got tipped about a mishandling of some of the supplies. Based on the tip, we moved to Patilla and at a distribution center we were able to corroborate what we didn’t want to see,” Martin said during the interview. “That was, in a garbage dump truck we found pallets full of meals ready to be distributed at one time but now all spoiled.”
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