NEW ORLEANS – A shrimper has been ordered to return more than $159,000 he wrongfully received from a Deepwater Horizon claim after allegedly falsifying paperwork to make it appear that his income was much higher than it actually was.
Hai Do, a commercial shrimper and fisherman, filed a claim for lost income in the wake of 2010 BP oil spill, but is now facing clawback proceedings by the court after he was unable to provide evidence to support an amended income tax form that greatly increased his claims award.
Court appointed special master Louis Freeh, a former FBI director, and claims program head Patrick Juneau have requested Do return the money he received saying that after finding out he did not meet the $40,000 threshold to have his claim expedited, Ho refiled a new set of income tax documents showing a drastically higher income on which the ultimate claims award was based.
Unlike several others who have been required to return claims monies after it was found they were based on falsified tax documents that were never filed with the IRS, Do did file an amended tax form with the IRS and paid additional taxes. This seemingly points to a new tact and increased partnership being employed by Freeh and Juneau to dig further into questionable claims and is in stark contrast to Juneau’s previous statements regarding looking into fraudulent claims based on false tax documents as beyond the scope of his office.
Do initially filed a 2008 income tax return showing he had made $37,251 for work as a commercial fisherman and $39,179 in income from shrimp sales. Based on those figures Do was found not to be eligible for an expedited damages award. After asking the claims center to re-review his case Do then, without explanation for the disparity, recalculated his shrimping income revenue as $63,9191 and submitted an amended 2008 tax income information to the IRS six years afterward on Dec. 17, 2014. After providing the new data, which Freeh has determined was fraudulent, Do’s claim was expedited and greatly increased.
In a court filing Freeh said the changed income was unacceptable without supporting data.
“[A] claimant cannot change the factual ‘story’ concerning a claim without a sufficient explanation for his inconsistent assertions,” the clawback filing states.
According to Freeh, the sudden uptick in Do’s income was largely due to trip tickets and receipts in which he alleged to have represented commercial and personal cash sales that he did not in his first calculation count as income and only included in his amended tax form. However, court investigators were only able to locate receipts for $3,220 in increased shrimp sales, but were unable to identify the purchasers. Also, investigators noted other purchasers Do claimed to have sold shrimp to could not provide specifics on the sales, including receipts or other documents.
The law firm handling Do’s claim, Waltzer, Wiygul & Garside LLC, received attorney’s fees of $39,819, which they have also been required by the court to return. Accounting firm Juno Claims has also been asked to return the $4,850.62 they received for their work on Do’s claims.