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Dec. 10, 2010

BROWNSVILLE AREA MAN CHARGED IN FRAUD RELATED TO DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER
First case arising from Deepwater Horizon Disaster charged in SDTX
Indictment brings to 110 the number of persons charged with disaster relief related fraud in SDTX

(HOUSTON) – The purported owner of a business called “Sea Shell Jewelry & Collectibles” has been charged with wire fraud in connection with an alleged false claim for disaster relief following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. The indictment was returned by a Houston grand jury on Nov. 22, 2010.

Sergio Corona, 36, of Rancho Viejo, Texas, surrendered to the United States Marshals Service in Brownsville on Nov. 30, 2010, and has since been ordered released on bond pending trial on the charges following an appearance before United States Magistrate Judge John Froeschner.  

Corona is the first person charged in this district for allegedly defrauding a trust fund set up by BP to compensate the victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Corona is charged in a one-count indictment with making various misrepresentations in connection with claim he allegedly filed with the BP Claim Center seeking a total of approximately $28,434 from the BP trust fund alleging lost income as a result of the oil spill. According to allegations in the indictment, shortly after BP announced the creation of the $20 billion fund, Corona applied for benefits and knowingly transmitted or caused to be transmitted via wire allegedly false and fraudulent receipts and invoices in support of the lost income claim.    

“Thousand of deserving victims are relying on the trust fund created by BP to restore their losses resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Moreno. “Fraud upon the trust fund threatens to re-victimize those who truly experienced losses and will not be tolerated. The Southern District of Texas will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who attempts to deprive victims of the compensation they deserve.”

If convicted of wire fraud as alleged in the indictment, Corona faces a maximum of 20 years imprisonment as well as a $250,000 fine.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by agents with the United States Postal Inspection Service.

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 the hotline at (225) 334-4707, or emailing at disaster@leo.gov or in writing to National Center for Disaster Fraud, Baton Rouge, LA, 70821-4909.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney F. Andino Reynal.

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