(This article has been updated)
NEW ORLEANS – A special investigator who has been looking into possible corruption in the settlement process for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has asked the court to mandate the return of a “fraudulent claim” worth nearly $360,000.
Ex-FBI director Louis Freeh filed his request in U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s court asking that a questionable claim which previously led to the ouster of an attorney who is alleged to have taken a referral fee while under the employment of the Court Supervised Settlement Program, the body responsible for overseeing claims payments.
The claim was paid to Casey Thonn, a commercial shrimp fisherman, for $357,002.35 after it was alleged to have been first referred to attorney Lionel Sutton by his wife attorney Christine Reitano when she began working for the CSSP. Sutton subsequently referred the case to the Andry Lerner Law Firm after he also began working at the CSSP. An earlier report by Freeh found that an alleged referral fee of around $40,000 had been submitted to Crown LLC, a water reclamation company owned by Sutton, in what he called a money laundering scheme. After the conflict of interest was discovered by Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau both Sutton and Reitano were removed from their positions with the CSSP. In his report Freeh indicated he turned over evidence of the scheme to the Department of Justice, but no criminal investigation has yet been announced.
Despite the questionable activities surrounding the claim’s referral fee, Freeh requested it be on the basis of falsified tax returns on which the payout was based and he says were never processed by the Internal Revenue Service.
“Mr. Thonn presented false information and documents, including purported tax ‘returns’ that in fact had never been filed wit the Internal Revenue Service to support his alleged seafood compensation claim,” the filing reads.
In addition, to the request for Thonn to return his portion of the award his legal representatives have also been asked to return the portion they received, which would include the referral fee received by Sutton.
“All professionals who assisted Mr. Thonn and benefitted from this unjustified payment from the DHECC similarly should be required to return any payments received from Mr. Thonn’s claim,” the filing reads.