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BENJAMIN BENNETT PLEADS GUILTY TO CHARGES RELATED TO FILING FRAUDULENT CLAIMS FOR OIL SPILL COMPENSATION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2013

BENJAMIN BENNETT, age 23, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty in federal court today before U. S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud relating to a fraudulent application he made or caused to be made to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for financial assistance during the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, announced U. S. Attorney Dana J. Boente.

According to court documents, the GCCF made disaster assistance money available to individuals and businesses affected by the oil spill resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion.  The GCCF required individuals to verify loss of income.  On October 12, 2010, BENNETT applied for disaster assistance funds, representing that he was operating a commercial fishing business before the oil spill.  However, BENNETT had never worked as a commercial fisherman and he submitted or caused to be submitted false documentation to establish his false earnings.  Based on BENNETT’S fraudulent application, BENNETT received approximately $43,400 to which he was not entitled.  

BENNETT faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following imprisonment. Sentencing is set for October 3, 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 U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U. S. Secret Service, and prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Julia K. Evans.

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If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims or have knowledge of waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to: (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to: disaster@leo.gov

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