People in Houston hear the word “fraud” and might immediately think that it only applies to cases where people have lied in order to deprive others of money or property. Yet in reality, oftentimes transactions that occur between professionals in the private and public sectors can often skirt the boundaries between legitimate and fraudulent. For example, there are often several bona fide cases where professionals are provided with benefits in exchange for assistance. Such assistance, however, can become unlawful if it affects fair competition or public welfare. As is the case with any criminal activity, the key issue underlying any accusation of fraud is intent.
Federal authorities appear to believe fraudulent intent did indeed exist in the case involving former officials for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the president of an acquisition company charged with helping to re-establish Puerto Rico’s power grid after it was damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017. One former official in particular has been charged with pandering to the company in exchange for benefits. The woman was the chief official in charge of rebuilding the region’s power grid. She is accused of securing two multi-billion dollar contracts for the company, all while its president gave her airline tickets and access to a private helicopter. She subsequently left FEMA for a position within the company.
While actions such as this may certainly seem to cast an unfavorable shadow of those accused of perpetrating them, it is important to remember that fraudulent intent must indeed be present in order for a crime to have been committed. Those who believe their actions to be ethical and of good faith will want to express such a belief in answer to the accusations against them. An experienced attorney may be able to make this happen.