NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Fifteen people were charged Thursday with felony fraud for allegedly filing bogus claims for help after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the phony claims were worth more than $300,000 combined. Fourteen defendants were charged in bills of information, generally an indication that they have signed plea deals. A grand jury indicted one of them.
Most of those charged allegedly claimed to have worked jobs at certain wages before the spill, but prosecutors allege they did not work the jobs at the wages they purported. One man submitted a forged letter from his employer saying his wages were reduced when they were not; another made up businesses entirely. Others claimed to have operated commercial fishing businesses, when they really worked as barbers or construction workers.
A few months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf, BP established a $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility to settle claims with people and businesses that lost money or profits in the wake of the spill. Applicants were required to submit documentation of lost earnings or revenue.