South Florida Resident Ordered to Pay More Than $600,000 in Restitution for Filing Fraudulent Claims in Connection with the Deepwater Horizon Incident
A South Florida resident was ordered to pay $607,566 for her involvement in the filing of false claims in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), made the announcement.
On November 30, 2016, in the Key West Federal Courthouse, United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez entered the restitution order against Caridad Rioseco Alejandrez, 51, of Key West, Florida, who previously pled guilty to one count of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2 and was sentenced to serve forty-eight months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The restitution payment reflected the actual losses suffered by the Gulf Coat Claims Facility (GCCF) trust fund as a result of false claims handled by Caridad Rioseco Alejandrez for her own family members and for hundreds of Key West area residents.
Her father, Raul Rioseco, 74, of Stock Island, Florida, previously pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and was sentenced in April 2016 to one year and a day in prison in connection with his involvement in a similar false claim. He was also ordered to serve a three-year term of supervised release. Raul Rioseco was ordered to make restitution payments to the Deepwater Horizon Fund in the amount of $144,606.57, which represented the money he unlawfully received from the GCCF and the amounts received by certain other individuals based on fraudulent documents Raul Rioseco provided in support of other fraudulent claims. Additionally, Raul Rioseco was ordered to surrender to the State of Florida and the federal government all his permits and licenses associated with commercial fishing activities.
According to court filings and proceedings, in June 2010, BP plc established the GCCF for the purpose of administering and settling certain claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of oil discharges due to the April 20, 2010 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil exploration rig operating in the Gulf of Mexico. In August 2010, the GCCF began receiving and processing such claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses they had incurred as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident, paying the claims from a $20 billion private trust fund established for that purpose.
Caridad Rioseco Alejandrez, and her father, Raul Rioseco, filed fraudulent claims against the fund, in their own names, which resulted in them receiving $35,900 and $55,000, respectively, from the GCCF. The scheme to defraud the GCCF was carried out through mailings and through the use of the Internet, to open the claims and to provide required forms and documentation, including employment verification letters and tax return documents. Alejandrez produced and provided the documents to the GCCF on behalf of herself and her father which were materially false and fraudulent and claimed Alejandrez and Rioseco were adversely affected by the spill and lost income in the months following the incident, when this was not the truth.
Additionally, Caridad Rioseco Alejandrez Rioseco, who had long served as a “facilitator” for local area residents, preparing tax returns, handling immigration paperwork, and providing other accounting services, facilitated the filing of hundreds of other false claims, by completing claims paperwork and producing fraudulent tax returns, wage statements, and “loss statements,” to support claims for compensation which were filed by her with the GCCF, for economic losses purported to have been suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident, despite the fact that none of the individuals had suffered the claimed losses.
The United States advised the Court that records established that the amounts claimed, approached $1.5 million, although the actual amounts paid out by the GCCF on the claims was $607,566.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement, the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements Homeland Security Investigations and the support provided by the United States Postal Inspection Service. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald, Deputy Chief of the Economic and Environmental Crimes Section.
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling 877-NCDF-GCF (877-623-3423), sending a fax to (225) 334-4707, or emailing email@example.com.