Three Charged in Scheme to Defraud BP Oil Spill Claims Fund
BIRMINGHAM – Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged three 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 in U.S. District Court, the U.S. Attorney's Office charged CHRISTOPHER JARRIS ADDISON, 31, of Birmingham, CRYSTAL DAVIS BLACKMON, 27, of Bessemer, and ANDRE CLINTON DALE, 45, of Mobile, with conspiring in 2011 to devise a scheme to defraud the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Combined, the three defendants were paid nearly $175,000 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 trust fund was designed to help remedy the damage done by the disastrous BP oil spill in 2010," Vance said. "We are going to put criminals who fraudulently divert those funds from the victims of the oil spill in jail," she said.
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.
Addison, Blackmon and Dale all are charged with independently agreeing to provide their Social Security numbers and bank account information to individuals, who are not named in the charging documents, so that those individuals could file fraudulent claims for lost wages to the GCCF. After the fraudulent claims were paid, Addison, Blackmon and Dale each 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 Addison $77,942 from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust Fund on Aug. 24, 2011, according to the court documents. On Aug. 25, 2011, Addison gave the bulk of the payment to the two individuals who recruited him to the conspiracy, according to the documents.
Blackmon was recruited into the conspiracy by her cousin, who is not named in the court documents. She provided him with her bank account and personal identifying information and on Aug. 2, 2011, received about $47,878 from the GCCF, according to her information and plea agreement. She paid about $35,533 of that to her cousin, according to the documents.
Dale received about $47,678 in claim funds on July 20, 2011. On July 26, 2011, according to his information and plea agreement, he paid $15,000 to one of the individuals who recruited him into the scheme.
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