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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Orleans Woman Sentenced for Defrauding Gulf Coast Claims Facility

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that TEQUILLA LEWIS, age 37, of New Orleans, was sentenced for conspiracy to commit wire fraud relating to fraudulent applications she made to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for financial assistance in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman sentenced LEWIS to three years probation and ordered restitution in the amount of $188,200.

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.  Beginning approximately October 2010, LEWIS agreed with other individuals to defraud the GCCF by making and submitting false on-line claims for lost earnings resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Pursuant to their agreement, LEWIS provided the individuals with fraudulent documentation to submit along with their false claims to GCCF.  LEWIS required them to share part of any claim proceeds with her as a fee for her assistance with the claims.  Accordingly, LEWIS filed numerous claim forms with the GCCF claims facility seeking emergency six-month payments on behalf of others, who posed as claimants.  The claim forms falsely stated that they had lost earnings as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  To support the false claims, LEWIS created and submitted false documentation in support of these claims.

As a result of these false representations and documentation, the GCCF paid LEWIS and the other individuals approximately $188,200.

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 Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating this matter.  Assistant United States Attorney Loan AMimi@ Nguyen was in charge of the prosecution.

Updated December 10, 2014