Former Key West Residents Sentenced for Making False Claims on BP Spill Fund
|U.S. Attorney’s Office July 18, 2013|
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that David Bacon, 53, and Donald Sargent, 37, both former residents of Key West, Florida, were sentenced today in United States District Court in Key West on their convictions on charges arising from false claims filed in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico. Both defendants and a third individual, Cleon Major, previously had entered guilty pleas to charges of wire fraud in the submission of fraudulent claims for lost income against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Bacon to a term of imprisonment of 21 months, followed by a three year term of supervised release, and ordered he pay restitution to the fund in the amount of $16,000. Judge Martinez sentenced Sargent to a prison term of 33 months, also followed by a three year term of supervision, and restitution in the amount of $77,215 to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Defendant Major was sentenced on May 16, 2013, to a term of imprisonment of 110 months on the wire fraud charges and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $306,228, as well as a period of supervised release of three years.
According to the indictment, joint factual statements filed by the parties, and other court records, on April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire occurred on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that had been drilling an exploration well. In June 2010, BP established the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for the purpose of administering, mediating, and settling certain claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of the oil discharges due to the Deepwater Horizon incident. In August 2010, the GCCF began receiving and processing such claims, and BP ceased receiving and processing claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages, and other losses incurred as a result of the oil discharges due to the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Major confessed in court that on October 27, 2010, in furtherance of a scheme to obtain money from the GCCF, he filed a fraudulent electronic claim via the Internet for approximately $10,000 in lost income, knowing the representations in his claim were false. To substantiate his claim of lost income, Major provided the GCCF fraudulent employment and income documents, which he transmitted via the Internet from Monroe County, Florida, to the GCCF offices in Dublin, Ohio, to support his demand for compensation.
In addition to his own claim, Major secured the personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers, of Bacon, Sargent, and others and filed claims under their names with false supporting documentation. Major was held accountable as part of the relevant sentencing conduct for filing fraudulent claims for nine other Key West residents, in addition to Bacon and Sargent, which included false verifications of employment, fraudulent payroll records, and fictitious supporting tax forms. Compensation paid out under the false claims was shared between the individual claimant and Major.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.