NEW ORLEANS – Two New Orleans area women have been sentenced for filing fraudulent financial assistance applications to the Gulf Coast Claim Facility following the 2010 Gulf oil sill.
Keishandra Houston, 36, of Slidell, and Alicia Wells, 29, of New Orleans, were two of 15 area residents charged with felonies by the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this year for allegedly defrauding the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) that was set up to administer oil spill claims.
Houston pled guilty to a wire fraud charge for claiming she was working as a cook at a seafood restaurant at the time of the oil spill and suffered financially after losing her job. Authorities said she wired false earnings statements to the GCCF that showed she lost $8,640 in wages and received an award of $5,900.
Wells pled guilty to mail fraud after she provided the GCCF with tax returns from 2008 and 2009 showing she had worked as a line cook at Center Plate making $486 per week. She received three checks totaling $13,200. However, an investigation revealed that Internal Revenue Service records showed she had not filed tax returns in those years and that a Center Plate employee denied her employment there.
Although both faced a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, Houston received a one year of probation and Wells received four years of probation. Both are also required to pay back the amount in relief funds they received.
The criminal cases were brought in the United States Eastern District Court Eastern District of Louisiana and were overseen by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier who is also presiding over a civil case stemming form the oil spill.