News and Press Releases

BP CLAIMS FUND FRAUD INDICTMENT UNSEALED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, announce that Joseph Harvey, 51, and Anja Karin Kannell, 41, both of Delray Beach, made their initial appearances in U.S. Magistrate Court in Miami today in the largest financial loss case brought to date arising from claims filed in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico. The Indictment unsealed today charges the defendants with mail fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft, all in connection with fraudulent claims for lost income filed by the two defendants against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341, 1343, 1029(a)(2) and (b)(1), 1028A(a)(1) and (c)(5), and 2. At the hearing today, Harvey and Kannell were ordered detained, pending further proceedings in U.S. Magistrate Court in Miami on October 11 and 13, 2011, respectively.

According to the allegations in the indictment and statements made in Court, in June 2010, BP established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) to administer, mediate, and settle certain claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of oil discharges due to the April 20, 2010 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon. To this end, in August 2010, the GCCF began receiving, processing and paying the claims from a $20 billion trust fund established for that purpose.

The indictment alleges that from August 2010 through January 2011, Joseph Harvey and Anja Karin Kannell filed fraudulent claims against the fund using thirty-four assumed identities. The defendants used the actual names and social security numbers of individuals residing in Florida, but submitted addresses located in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. To execute the scheme, the defendants used the mail and the internet to open the claims, provide required forms and documentation, and instruct the GCCF how to disburse the payments. Based on these false documents, GCCF issued payments to the defendants through accounts established in a fictitious name in a San Antonio, Texas credit union.

In this way, Harvey and Kannell allegedly caused approximately $340,000 to be transferred from the GCCF to accounts they maintained in Texas. The defendants then withdrew the funds using an ATM card issued in the fictitious account holder’s name at ATM machines throughout South Florida, and through wire transfers for the rental of luxury homes and the purchase of high-end vehicles and boats.

The indictment further alleges that the defendants used unauthorized access devices as part of their criminal conduct, consisting of the unique GCCF Claim numbers assigned to their fictitious claims. Joseph Harvey is additionally charged with possessing and using without lawful authority the identification of another person, that is, the Social Security Numbers of two individuals in December 2010.

If convicted, each defendant faces a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of up to twenty years on each of the fifteen counts of mail and wire fraud and up to ten years in prison on each of the seven counts of access device fraud. Additionally, Joseph Harvey faces mandatory consecutive terms of imprisonment of up to two years on each count of aggravated identity theft.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Inspectors of the United States Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.

An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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