NEW ORLEANS — More than 100 people, including a former
employee, are facing jail time after they were convicted of conning
millions from the BP Deepwater Horizon Fund.
Charlie English III, a former claims adjuster for the Gulf Coast
Claims Facility who admitted to defrauding the business out of
$257,400, is just one of dozens
of people who were convicted for participating in making fraudulent
claims against BP Deepwater Horizon Fund. According to Petro
Global News, the convictions come years
after the organization agreed upon a $20.8 billion civil settlement
with the U.S. Department of Justice and five Gulf States following
the April 2010 oil spill, the biggest in the nation’s history,
which left 11 people dead.
Dane Ciolino, a legal expert and Loyola University New Orleans law
professor, said residents should not be surprised by the 187
“It's just a tremendous number of claims with lots of money
available for distribution," Ciolino told The Louisiana
Record. "I don't think we should be surprised that there was
fraud associated with this.”
But could the illegal action of hundreds prevent those who have
real damage from the oil spill from receiving the assistance they
need? Ciolino said it is difficult to predict how the organization
will move forward with similar claims.
“It's hard to think about... ," he said. "This
environmental disaster was truly unprecedented. There have been many
other mass ones and class actions in the past. But this one spanned
several states, affected hundreds of thousands of people and caused
billions of dollars’ worth of economic losses and property damage.
So it's hard to think about comparable cases because this really was
Still, there is also an underlying question of how such a large
number of people were able to commit a serious crime with such high
dollar amounts involved, especially when considering the attorneys
who assisted the violators in filing the claims.
“A lawyer isn’t subject to discipline unless he has actual
knowledge that his client is engaged in fraudulent activity,"
Ciolino said. "A lot of times, lawyers simply have to take their
clients at their word. Particularly in this case, when so many of the
claims did not have any corroboration other than simply verbal
reports about losses due to the spill. It doesn’t surprise me.”
He revealed that some lawyers have received “discipline for
misconduct.” But the number is relatively low when compared to the
total number of fraudulent claims and “the large amount of money in
While 187 people have been convicted, Ciolino is confident there
is “no doubt” more out there who have not been charged for filing
A Mississippi woman, Thi Houng Le, 34, received seven years in
federal prison and three years of supervised release. Caridad Rioseco
Alejandrez of Florida was ordered to pay more than $600,000 for
helping file fake claims. The Louisiana
Record previously reported that English was also ordered to
pay his restitution of more than $257,000. He will also be on
probation for three years.