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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 29, 2015

LaplaceWoman Sentenced for Misprision of a Felony in Aftermath of BP Oil Spill

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that MECHELLE STANTON WOODS, age 44, of Laplace, was sentenced today for her role in a conspiracy to defraud the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (“GCCF”) in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown sentenced WOODS to one year probation.

The GCCF made disaster assistance money available to individuals and businesses affected by the oil spill resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.  The GCCF required individuals to verify loss of income.  According to court documents, WOODS assisted with preparing and electronically submitting fraudulent claim forms, for her co-conspirators who recruited claimants, falsely representing the claimants were employed in the commercial fishing industry at the time of the oil spill.  WOODS knew the claims were fraudulent, but she did not report it to law enforcement.    

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.

U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Secret Service in investigating this matter.  Assistant U. S. Attorneys Julia K. Evans and Theodore R. Carter, III were in charge of the prosecution.

Updated January 29, 2015