Director of Non-Profit Convicted in BP Claims Fund Fraud Trial
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 17, 2013|
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Antonio J. Gomez, Acting Inspector in Charge, Miami Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office; and Richard L. Walker, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General-Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigation, announced that Jean Mari Lindor, 32, of Homestead, Florida, was convicted by a federal jury in Miami yesterday for his participation in filing false claims in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident in the Gulf of Mexico. Lindor was convicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft, all in connection with fraudulent claims filed by the defendant seeking lost income against the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the filing of fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, and false claims for unemployment compensation against the State of Florida, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341, 1343, 1029(a)(2) and (b)(1), and 2.
The guilty verdicts were returned before U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore, who set the sentencing hearing for July 30, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. in Miami. Lindor faces possible terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years on each of the 34 counts of mail fraud and wire fraud, up to 10 years’ imprisonment on the three counts of access device fraud, and a consecutive sentence of two years each on the two counts of aggravated identity theft. The defendant also faces a fine of up to $250,000 on each count or twice the intended gain or loss caused by the conduct, as well as a period of supervised release of up to five years.
According to the allegations in the indictment and evidence presented in court, 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 oil discharges due to the April 20, 2010 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that had been drilling an exploration well. 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 trust fund established for that purpose.
The evidence at trial established that Lindor filed fraudulent claims against the fund, in his own name, and in the name of a not-for-profit business he established, Noula Incorporated, located in Homestead. The value of the claims charged in the indictment and presented at trial were in excess of $1.2 million. Trial evidence demonstrated that the records supplied to the GCCF to support the many claims were materially false and fraudulent because they purported to show the claimants were employees of various hotels, restaurants, and clubs in the Florida Keys at the time of the spill and that their income had been adversely affected as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Lindor also used unauthorized access devices during the scheme, consisting of the unique GCCF Claim numbers assigned to his fictitious claims, and without which he would have been unable to communicate with the GCCF, or cause payments to be issued to them. Moreover, Lindor also sought unemployment compensation for more than a year from the state of Florida, falsely certifying that he was not earning income when, in fact, he was actively directing the scheme at Noula.
Furthermore, the evidence at trial showed that Lindor possessed and used without lawful authority the social security numbers of two identity theft victims to file fraudulent tax claims against the IRS and directed the refunds into either his personal bank account or to bank debit cards.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate. Mr. Ferrer would also like to thank the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF). This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, through the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Disaster Fraud Hotline at 877-NCDF-GCF (623-3423), the Disaster Fraud Fax at 225-334-4707, or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at email@example.com.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.