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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Orleans Woman, Rachell Thomas, Sentenced For Conspiracy To Commit Wire Fraud In Aftermath Of Bp Oil Spill

RACHELL THOMAS, age 37, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sentenced today before U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. to 12 months and one day imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) in the aftermath of the BP oil spill, announced U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente.  In addition to the term of imprisonment, THOMAS was ordered to pay restitution in the amount $8,000 and be placed on three years of supervised release following her imprisonment.

The GCCF made disaster assistance money available to individuals affected by the oil spill resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The GCCF required individuals to verify loss of income. According to court documents, THOMAS and approximately 22 co-conspirators created claim forms in which they falsely claimed to work for seafood restaurants and to have suffered financially through lost employment as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. To support these fraudulent claims, THOMAS created false earnings statements and letters from fictitious restaurants and faxed them to the GCCF during September and October 2010. THOMAS and the other conspirators attempted to defraud the GCCF of a total of $188,500. THOMAS obtained $8,000 as a result of the scheme.

This case was brought as part of this District’s partnership with the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), a nationwide initiative to protect available funds and assistance for those victims of both natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and the recent Gulf oil spill.  If you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, you can contact the NCDF by either calling the hotline at (866) 720-5721, faxing (225) 334-4707, emailing at disaster@leo.gov or in writing to National Center for Disaster Fraud, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4909.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Chandra Menon.