A federal grand jury has indicted a Birmingham, Alabama, man on charges that he filed fraudulent claims with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for income he said he lost as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill.
Jonathan Hoffman, a resident of Birmingham, faces two counts of fraud after collecting $78,338 from the $20-billion fund set up to assist victims of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, which contaminated the Gulf with an estimated 206 million gallons of oil. Mr. Hoffman made a final payment claim with the GCCF on February 1, 2011, for $156,000, stating he likely lost three years of earnings from his job as a bartender in a Panama City Beach, Florida, restaurant.
According to the indictment, Hoffman’s claim stated that he lost an annual income of $52,000. He also provided a fraudulent letter, “ostensibly from the owner of the restaurant where he worked,” in an effort to substantiate his claim that he earned $1,000 per week in addition to a monthly cell phone and gas allowances of nearly $400, for a total monthly income of $4,388.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to work with numerous federal and state agencies to keep watch for anyone wrongfully seeking or obtaining disaster benefits,” Peggy Sanford, press officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Alabama, said in a statement. “That money is meant to help those who suffered from the disasters restore their lives and their livelihoods. Anyone who commits a crime in order to steal benefits from disaster victims should expect to be prosecuted.”
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility began accepting claims on August 23, 2010. A settlement agreement between BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee replaced the GCCF and its administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, with the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center (DHCC). The new center took over the process of paying oil-spill related claims in June 2012.