The FBI on Wednesday arrested two former senior officials who served in administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, leading the chair of the House committee that oversees Puerto Rico to call for the governor to step down.
The arrests also spurred concerns on Capitol Hill about the billions of dollars in aid that Congress has approved for the island.
The federal indictment says the former officials illegally directed federal funding to politically connected contractors. The arrests come about a month after Congress approved a controversial disaster aid bill that earmarked additional funding for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017, which were tied up in part because President Trump called Puerto Rico’s officials “incompetent or corrupt.”
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the Natural Resource Committee that oversees Puerto Rico, called on Rosselló to resign amid the ongoing federal investigation.
“We’ve crossed that crucible now,” Grijalva said in interview. “The restoration of accountability is so key going forward.”
Six people were charged in the 32-count indictment. They include Julia Keleher, who served as Puerto Rico’s education secretary until April; and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, who was the executive director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration until late June.
“Keleher and Avila-Marrero exploited their government positions and fraudulently awarded contracts funded with federal monies,” U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Vélez said in a statement. “The charged offenses are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.”
Prosecutors said Rosselló was not involved in the investigation, according to the Associated Press.
A spokesman for Rosselló did not immediately return requests for comment.
The arrests come as senior White House officials are searching for new ways to limit the amount of federal aid going to help Puerto Rico, and the island’s allies fear the arrests will give Trump greater justification for curtailing additional aid to the island.
“The governor of Puerto Rico and his administration have now given President Trump the ammunition he needed,” said San Juan Mayor Yulin Cruz, a political opponent of the governor.
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