False BP oil spill claims and other disaster fraud gets couple 13-year sentence

BP 435x292 False BP oil spill claims and other disaster fraud gets couple 13 year sentence  A South Florida couple received a 13-year prison sentence Wednesday for filing multiple fraudulent claims in connection with the 2010 BP oil spill.

Joseph Harvey, 53, and Anja Karin Kannell, 42, of Lighthouse Point, Florida, successfully collected about $366,000 on $1.26 million of false claims from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which administered a $20-billion fund established to mediate and settle claims brought by individuals and businesses harmed by BP’s massive oil spill.

Both Harvey and Kannell were found guilty on numerous counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection to the false oil-spill claims they filed. From August 2010 to January 2911, the couple assumed 34 identities using names and social security numbers of actual Florida residents. They then gave addresses in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Florida panhandle and collected payments through accounts established under the stolen aliases in San Antonio, Texas. Harvey and Kannell conducted all of the fraudulent activity through the mail and internet.

The couple withdrew funds from ATM machines throughout South Florida. They also directly wired funds from their fake accounts to pay for luxury home rentals and to buy expensive vehicles and boats.

In additional to filing false claims related to the 2010 oil spill, the defendants were also convicted of making false claims in connection with a series of natural disasters stretching back to 2008. The couple fraudulently sought funds from the Louisiana Workforce Commission after Hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit that state in 2008. The Commission administered the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The couple also filed claims seeking disaster assistance from funds established to help victims of flooding in Mississippi in April and May of 2011. They also made 76 fraudulent claims for disaster relief in North Dakota after flooding in Minot and Bismarck and in New York after Tropical Storm Irene inundated several upstate counties in August 2011.

Total fraudulent claims, including those linked related to BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, were made under some 600 stolen identities and approached $3 million.


Bloomberg / BusinessWeek
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