BP claimant ordered by court to return $357K in fraudulent claims

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has ordered a Louisiana commercial shrimper to return a $357,000 claim involving the 2010 Deepwater Horizon.

The claim in question went to Casey Thonn, a commercial shrimp fisherman, who said he lost a significant amount of his income due to the oil spill. However, Special Master Louis Freeh found that Thonn’s claim was based on a tax return that was never filed with the Internal Revenue Service, and rather, was filed with the accounting firm Coastal Claims Group (CCG) which provided a clean audit of the claim.

In his order, Barbier brushed aside requests for an evidentiary hearing by AndyLerner, a law firm handling Thonn’s claim, as well as CCG.

Both AndyLerner and CCG were asked by Freeh to return fees they took for their part in processing the claim, but Barbier's order said further analysis would be needed before they were ordered to make refunds.

“No party presents the Court with legal support for their position, and case law regarding the necessity of an evidentiary hearing does not provide the Court with much aid beyond providing that courts have wide latitude in making the decision to hold an evidentiary hearing,” the order states.

It also states that if a hearing were to be held it would be only for the purpose of showing that the tax forms given to CCG were correct.

“The Special Master has submitted uncontroverted evidence that the returns that were submitted with Thonn's claims and that provided the basis for CCG's report were never filed with the IRS,” the order reads.

The settlement became the center of an investigation into the Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP) last year when Freeh revealed attorney Lionel Sutton, a CSSP attorney at the time who resigned shortly after, had allegedly accepted a referral fee from attorney Glen Lerner, a partner in AndryLerner, for the Thonn settlement.

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