New Jersey residents most likely remember the BP oil spill that occurred on April 20, 2010. The environmental disaster began when millions of barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after a rig blast. Now, seven individuals have been indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly conspiring to submit false claims on behalf of people who were physically injured or suffered economic losses from the accident.
In July, a settlement for $18.7 billion was reached between BP and thousands of injured plaintiffs from states along the Gulf. BP accused the attorney who was representing some of the plaintiffs of using fraud to inflate his client list in order to force BP to pay more than the original $2.3 billion settlement. On Sept. 15, a federal grand jury charged the attorney and six other people with several counts of identity theft, mail and wire fraud and conspiracy.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, the defendants attempted to enrich themselves by using stolen identities to collect money from a disaster relief program. The attorney who is accused of orchestrating the fraud has stated that he is looking forward to the trial so that he can prove he did not commit any crimes.
Before people are indicted for federal fraud charges, they are usually the subject of a long investigation. Those who have discovered that they are under investigation for fraud may want to begin working with an attorney before they are handed charges. An attorney may be able to field all questions from investigators and negotiate for a solution that does not involve criminal charges.
Source: CBS News, "Feds charge 7 with $2 billion fraud tied to Deepwater Horizon spill," Oct. 29, 2015