Three More Charged in Scheme to Defraud BP Oil Spill Claims Fund
BIRMINGHAM – Federal prosecutors this week charged three more people as part of a conspiracy to fraudulently take money from funds established to pay claims from individuals and businesses harmed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr.
In separate informations filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged JEREMY JAMAL BELL, 24, and ANTHONY KEITH BIVINS, 42, both of Birmingham, and CAMETRICA L. MENIFIELD, 31, of Bessemer, with conspiring in 2011 to participate in a scheme to defraud the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Combined, the three defendants were paid about $138,881 from the oil spill claims funds. All three defendants have signed plea agreements with the government expressing their intention to plead guilty to the charges.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has now charged eight people with conspiring to defraud the oil spill claims funds, and the first five have pled guilty.
British Petroleum, which owned the Macondo oil well where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in June 2010 for the purpose of administering and settling claims resulting from the oil spill disaster. A subsidiary of BP established the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust Fund in August 2010 to pay certain types of claims and expenses from the oil spill, including claims settled through the GCCF.
Bell, Bivins and Menifield are each charged with independently agreeing to provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers and bank account information, to individuals who recruited them so that they could use the information to file fraudulent claims for lost wages with the GCCF. The recruiters are not named in the charging documents. After the fraudulent claims were paid to Bell, Bivins and Menifield, each of them returned part of the money to the individuals who recruited them to participate in the scheme, according to the informations and plea agreements.
The GCCF paid Bell $42,877 from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust Fund on Aug. 9, 2011, according to the court documents. Later that month, Bell withdrew $42,402 from his account and gave it to the person who recruited him to participate in the scheme, according to the documents.
Bivins received about $61,987 in claim funds in October 2011. On Oct. 29, 2011, according to his information and plea agreement, he cashed the claims check, used some of it to buy money orders and a prepaid $5,000 debit card, as directed, and turned it all over to a co-conspirator. He was given $5,000 and the prepaid debit card in return.
Menifield received about $34,023 from the GCCF on July 21, 2011, according to her information and plea agreement. On July 22, 2011, she gave about $24,000 to a co-defendant and kept about $10,000, according to the documents.
The FBI investigated these cases. Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Cornelius is prosecuting the cases.
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The Office of U.S. Attorney
Joyce White Vance
Natural Disaster Fraud Hotline
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the Hotline, toll free, at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see the News Release Justice Department Officials Raise Awareness of Disaster Fraud Hotline