WASHINGTON – A woman was indicted today in the Eastern District of Louisiana for allegedly filing fraudulent claims for compensation due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Four other individuals were charged this week in Alabama, Michigan and Mississippi for fraud related to oil spill compensation claims, in addition to two defendants previously indicted on Nov. 22 and Nov. 24, 2010, in Texas and North Carolina.
These charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorneys Kenyen Ray Brown of the Southern District of Alabama, Jim Letten of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Don Burkhalter of the Southern District of Mississippi, George E.B. Holding of the Eastern District of North Carolina, José Angel Moreno of the Southern District of Texas; FBI Assistant Director for the Criminal Investigative Division Kevin L. Perkins; U.S. Secret Service Assistant Director for Investigations A.T. Smith; and Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
"The charges announced today send a strong message that we will not tolerate any fraudulent activity designed to profit from this tragic oil spill," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "The Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies are placing a high priority on the prompt investigation and prosecution of all forms of fraud related to this disaster."
The indictment filed today charges Cam T. Hang with one count of mail fraud. The indictment alleges that Hang filed a claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for $42,000 for business losses resulting from the oil spill. According to the indictment, Hang falsely stated she was doing business as C.H. Food Mart Inc., a seafood restaurant, and submitted fraudulent information claiming that her business experienced loss of income as a result of the oil spill, when in fact it did not.
Yesterday, in the Southern District of Alabama, two individuals were charged in separate criminal complaints. Travis P. Sigler was charged with wire fraud for allegedly submitting fraudulent pay stubs in support of a $13,000 claim made to the GCCF for lost income due to the oil spill. According to the complaint, the fraudulent pay stubs exaggerated the amount of his income for the purpose of increasing the amount received from his claim. Maria Wright was charged with mail fraud for allegedly filing fraudulent documents in support of her claim to the GCCF for $20,000 in lost income due to the oil spill.
Four other individuals have been charged with crimes related to fraudulent claims of compensation. In the Eastern District of Michigan, Kevin Hall was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed on Dec. 8, 2010, with one count of wire fraud. Hall allegedly falsely claimed to BP that he suffered $9,000 in lost business revenue as a result of the oil spill. On Dec. 7, 2010, an indictment was filed in the Southern District of Mississippi, charging Dennis L. Moore with wire and mail fraud. According to the indictment, Moore allegedly submitted false documents – including a false Mississippi tax identification number, false state tax returns, a false Mississippi Department of Revenue Business Permit, false federal tax returns and false sales receipts – in support of claims totaling $180,000 to the GCCF and to BP for compensation relating to the oil spill.
An indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas on Nov. 22, 2010, charged Sergio Corona with wire fraud. The indictment alleges that the defendant filed a claim with BP for $28,434, asserting that he had lost income because of the oil spill, but submitted false and fraudulent receipts and invoices in support of his claim.
Charlette Dufray Johnson was charged in a superseding indictment filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina on Nov. 24, 2010, with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with her claim to the GCCF. According to the superseding indictment, Johnson allegedly submitted a claim under the name and identity of her deceased sister, falsely claiming to have worked for and been terminated by a company in New Orleans. The indictment also charged her with false claims to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in connection with her previously filing 12 false claims for disaster assistance, totaling $76,666, relating to Hurricane Katrina, a California wildfire, and Tennessee and Georgia storms.
"The FBI is committed to seeking out and prosecuting individuals who commit fraud to obtain compensation intended for those who suffered losses as a result of the spill," said FBI Assistant Director Perkins. "We will continue to pursue disaster fraud whenever it occurs."
"The U.S. Secret Service is proud to partner with the National Center for Disaster Fraud to pursue criminals seeking to commit fraud related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," Secret Service Assistant Director Smith said. "Cooperation and partnerships such as this have allowed us to focus our resources to uncover and prevent fraud more efficiently than ever."
"Protecting the mail, as well as those members of the public who are legitimately entitled to compensation after the oil spill, is a key concern for the Postal Inspection Service," stated Chief Postal Inspector Cottrell. "The Postal Inspection Service is pleased to have played an integral role since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in investigating cases of disaster fraud and ensuring that disaster assistance goes only to those who need it."
The cases announced today are a result of coordination between the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF). The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and law enforcement agencies are working in coordination to ensure expeditious handling of oil spill-related fraud cases. The NCDF provides a nationwide process for receiving, screening, de-conflicting, and referring cases of disaster fraud, including fraud stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In response to a significant amount of fraud associated with federal disaster relief programs that went into effect following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, a Joint Command Center was established in Baton Rouge in 2005. The command center, now known as the NCDF, has received and screened more than 41,000 complaints of disaster fraud and referred nearly 26,000 of those to law enforcement for investigation. The NCDF – based on its extensive expertise and established infrastructure – has helped victims of fraud related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Ike and Gustav, as well as those affected by severe storms in more than 20 different states, earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires.
Members of the public can report fraud involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Disaster Fraud Hotline at 877-NCDF-GCF (623-3423), the Disaster Fraud Fax at 225-334-4707 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at email@example.com. Individuals can also report criminal activity to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.