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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Former FEMA Employee Pleads Guilty To Felony

SAN JUAN, P.R. – Jovanda R. Paterson, a.k.a. “Jo/Jojo,” a former FEMA Emergency Management Specialist pleaded guilty pursuant to a Plea Agreement before United States District Court Judge Francisco A. Besosa to a felony violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 208(a), announced W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), conducted the investigation with support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Following the passage of Hurricane María in September 2017, Patterson was assigned to assist with FEMA restoration efforts in Puerto Rico. While employed by FEMA, Patterson negotiated prospective employment with Cobra Acquisitions LLC (Cobra) and its affiliates, which were engaged in restoration efforts on the Puerto Rico electric power grid. While negotiating prospective employment with Cobra, Patterson participated as a FEMA employee in a May 8, 2018 Past Performance Evaluation for Cobra Logistics LLC as a part of a vendor bid process. Patterson later accepted employment with a Cobra affiliate in June 2018.

Pursuant to the terms of the Plea Agreement, Patterson admitted that while she was negotiating employment with COBRA and its affiliates from March to July 2018, Patterson participated as a FEMA employee in a May 8, 2018 Past Performance Evaluation for Cobra Logistics LLC as a part of a vendor bid process. The defendant willfully engaged in conduct and participated personally and substantially as a Government employee through recommendation and the rendering of advice in a proceeding in which she knew COBRA and its affiliates Cobra Energy LLC and Cobra Logistics Holding LLC had a financial interest, and that at that time, she was negotiating and had an arrangement concerning prospective employment with COBRA and its affiliates.

Patterson was charged in a 15-count indictment along with defendants Ahsha Nateef Tribble - Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Region II, Deputy Regional Administrator, assigned to work in Puerto Rico as part of FEMA’s response to Hurricane María; and Donald Keith Ellison - President of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC until June 2019. The indictment alleges that Tribble and Ellison engaged in a bribery conspiracy, honest services fraud scheme, and major disaster fraud scheme in relation to the electric power grid restoration efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María. Trial as to Tribble and Ellison is scheduled for January 2021.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Myriam Y. Fernández-González and Assistant United States Attorney Seth A. Erbe. Patterson may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed five (5) years, a fine not to exceed Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00), and not more than three (3) years of supervised release. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 11, 2020.

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Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Component(s): 
Updated March 11, 2020