A federal judge in Puerto Rico has set a December 9 trial date for the former executive of Cobra Acquisitions, LLC, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City’s Mammoth Energy Services.
Donald Keith Ellison, the former president of Cobra was indicted in September along with two former FEMA officials. He is charged with disaster fraud, false statements, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery during the Hurricane Maria disaster recovery from 2017 to 2019.
U.S. District Judge Francisco Besosa set the December trial date, however it is likely to be delayed until sometime in 2020 because of the massive amount of documentation gathered by FBI agents and the Department of Justice in the case.
“The court finds that the defendants’ need to review the voluminous and extensive evidence out weighs the defendants’ and the community’s interest in a speedy trial,” wrote the judge in a recent decision. Discovery in the case is due this week while motions for any change of plea will be heard Dec. 2.
Ellison is free on a $500,000 bond. He was indicted and accused of bribing Ahsha Nateef Tribble, a deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Authority. Prosecutors contend Ellison provided hotel rooms, entertainment expenses, helicopter rides, airfare, a credit card and personal security services in order to secure contracts to build Puerto Rico’s electric grid.
Cobra ended up being awarded nearly $1.8 billion in recovery effort contracts. The charges allege Tribble pressured FEMA and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to award the contract work to Cobra.
The charges also allege Ellison gave a $160,000 a year-job to Jovanda R. Patterson who was a friend of Trible. She had also been the FEMA deputy chief of staff in Puerto Rico but resigned in July 2018 to take the job with Cobra Energy Energy LLC which is another subsidiary of OKC’s Mammoth Energy.
Some of the court records have already been ordered sealed by the judge.