Key West Man Pleads Guilty to Making False Claim on BP Claims Fund
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that Cleon Major, 40, of Key West, Florida, pled guilty today in United States District Court in Key West in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico. More specifically, Major pled guilty to wire fraud in the submission of a fraudulent claim for lost income against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 25, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez. The defendant faces a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of up to twenty years on the wire fraud charge and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 may also be imposed, as well as a period of supervised release of up to five years. Major remains in custody pending his sentencing.
According to the allegations in the indictment and statements made in court, on April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that had been drilling an exploration well. In June 2010, BP established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for the purpose of administering, mediating, and settling certain claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of the oil discharges due to the Deepwater Horizon incident. In August 2010, the GCCF began receiving and processing such claims, and BP ceased receiving and processing claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of the oil discharges due to the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Major admitted in Court that on October 27, 2010, in furtherance of a scheme to obtain money from the GCCF, he filed a fraudulent electronic claim via the internet for approximately $10,000 in lost income, knowing the representations in his claim were false. Three co-defendants in the case are still facing charges for mail and wire fraud totaling approximately $300,000.
To substantiate his claim of lost income, Major provided the GCCF fraudulent employment and income documents, which he transmitted via the internet from Monroe County, Florida, to the GCCF offices in Dublin, Ohio, to support his demand for compensation.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
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.