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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rachell Thomas Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Commit Wire Fraud In Aftermath Of Bp Oil Spill

RACHELL THOMAS, age 36, of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to applications for financial assistance in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, announced U. S. Attorney Dana J. Boente.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (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.

THOMAS faces a maximum term of five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment. Sentencing is set for September 18, 2013.

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.

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