The FBI is looking into complaints that local government officials in Puerto Rico may have engaged in corruption while distributing U.S. relief goods after Hurricane Maria.
According to Carlos Osorio, the FBI media representative at the San Juan field office, the FBI has received several complaints of alleged corruption in the distribution of relief goods. The agency is required to look into criminal complaints.
“I can’t say how many complaints we’ve had that local officials are misappropriating supplies,” Osorio said.
“We’re looking into [the] complaints, as we do with any complaints that may have a criminal violation nexus.”
Osorio noted, however, that looking into a complaint shouldn’t be confused with conducting a full investigation, and that the typical answer on whether the FBI has an open investigation is “we cannot confirm nor deny.”
According to protocol, he said, the FBI will follow the allegations, and if they find anything substantial, they’ll consult with the U.S. Attorney on whether they should move forward.
The U.S. government recently took over efforts in Puerto Rico to deliver relief goods including food, water, and medicine directly to those in need. On Oct. 8, U.S. troops began handing out the goods directly.
This was a break from protocol, in which typically the United States would bring the goods to regional staging areas and let local mayors distribute the goods from there. The Miami Herald reported this was done since some of the local mayors “stumble on the job.”
The role of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto in the relief efforts has been questioned.
Cruz made headlines for accusing President Donald Trump of not delivering relief to the island. It was soon shown, however, that not only was the Trump administration delivering large amounts of supplies, but in San Juan these supplies were sitting at the port under Cruz’s control and not being delivered.
There were close to 9,500 cargo containers of medicine, food, and other goods stuck at the port of San Juan on Sept. 28, according to CNBC.
Guaynabo Mayor Angel Perez Otero called out Cruz, saying the San Juan mayor was not joining meetings between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. military officials, and Puerto Rican leaders.
“I’ve seen other mayors participating. She’s not,” Perez Otero told The Washington Examiner, adding, “We are receiving a lot of help from FEMA and the Red Cross. … There is lots of help coming to us.”
Trump visited Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, and said the roads were cleared, but “we need their truck drivers to start driving trucks.” He noted that locals were helping in the efforts, but “a lot of them lost their homes, and when you lose a home it’s not easy to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to start delivering water.’”