Kyle Barnett Mar. 27, 2015, 7:37am


NEW ORLEANS – An Alabama woman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Deepwater Horizon claims center of $1 million by filing false claims under the names of more than 100 people unbeknownst to most of them.

Earlier this week Crystal Kitt, of Mobile, was sentenced to two years in prison and, under a plea agreement, ordered to pay back $951,400 to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust after pleading guilty to defrauding the claims center. Kitt initially faced up to 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Kitt was indicted in April 2014 on mail fraud and wire fraud charges for preparing more than 100 fraudulent Deepwater Horizon claims in the name of other people. According to the indictment, the vast majority of the people she filed claims on behalf of were unaware of her criminal activities.

As part of the fraud, prosecutors alleged Kitt set up fictitious email accounts in the names of several other people which she used to forward fraudulent documentation and information including social security numbers and drivers' licenses to the Deepwater Horizon claims center. Kitt also used various addresses throughout Mobile, Ala. to receive claims checks then deposited them into a private account to which she had sole access.

Individually Kitt was also accused of filing a fraudulent $30,000 claim on her own behalf claiming she had lost her job with Gulf Coast Investment Group in the aftermath of the 2010 oil spill. However, prosecutors determined Kitt was never employed by the financial services firm.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Deborah A. Griffin prosecuted the case on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama and U.S. District Judge Kristi K. DuBose oversaw the case.

According to the BP's latest fraud tally, Kitt’s sentencing brings the number of criminal convictions to 180 with 246 criminally charged, comprising a total of $19,942,626 in fraudulent claims payments.

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