Legal watchdog derides 'system abuse' in Deepwater fund fraud cases

By Charmaine Little | Jan 29, 2017

BATON ROUGE — A legal watchdog has called out the legal system in Louisiana after dozens of people have been convicted for defrauding the BP's Deepwater Horizon fund.

BATON ROUGE — A legal watchdog has called out the legal system in Louisiana after dozens of people have been convicted for defrauding the BP's Deepwater Horizon fund.

The convictions have come after dozens of people filed fake claims against the organization in hopes of obtaining funds illegally.

Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, said the fund alone, which was set up after BP reached a $20.8 billion civil settlement to help citizens who suffered damage from the largest oil spill in the nation’s history, had inconsistencies from the beginning.

“There’s no question the settlement fund was plagued by fraud and internal corruption seemingly from day one,” Landry told the Louisiana Record. “Just as troubling were the policies set up by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and his court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau, which allowed far too many class members who were not directly impacted by the spill to profit from it.”

She said the criminal exploits of this caliber have become far too common in Louisiana and almost make the state synonymous with illegal activity. Landry also pointed out that this pattern could bring a major negative impact to the financial aspect of Louisiana as well as its current and potential businesses.

“In many ways, this systemic abuse only further exacerbates the notion that legal corruption prevails in Louisiana, giving more businesses pause before moving or expanding their operations here. However, the implications of this case extend far beyond BP and the Bayou State,” she said.

Landry suggested that it seems the damage could spread beyond Louisiana.

“If the abuse of our legal system is allowed to continue without rebuke from our courts or our lawmakers, Louisiana-style jackpot justice could be exported to the rest of the country and there will be no end to the lawyers lining up for 'free money,' should there be another big event like this in the future,” Landry said.

While the nearly 200 people who have been convicted for the fraudulent activities are making headlines, Landry has pointed out that the citizens who truly needed the help have possibly been forgotten and even overlooked as the number of those with fake claims seems to continue to increase.

“Perhaps the most troubling aspect of what has happened in the aftermath of the Deepwater disaster is that so much fraud and abuse corrupted and clogged up the system that many legitimate victims were left waiting in the wings for far too long,” she said. “We cannot and should not let that ever happen again.”

So far, more than 180 people have been convicted for filing or being involved with filing fraudulent claims with the BP Deepwater Horizon Fund. But there have been at least 260 fraudulent cases across more than 10 states. The fake filings have amounted to almost $27 million, the Louisiana Record reported previously.

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