Houston Man Indicted for Fraud Related to Compensation Programs for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas on July 11, 2011 released the following:

“HOUSTON – Eric Michael Thornton, 26, of Houston, has been indicted on charges of wire fraud and mail fraud in relation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

The indictment, returned July 6, 2011, alleges that between June 2010 and January 2011, Thornton defrauded BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), claiming he had lost wages as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. BP established the GCCF in June 2010 to administer, mediate and settle certain claims of individuals and businesses for costs, damages and other losses suffered as a result of the oil discharges from the Deepwater Horizon incident that were originally handled by BP itself.

Thornton had previously lived in New Orleans, La., but was allegedly not living there at the time of the Deepwater Horizon incident, according to the indictment. The indictment alleges that Thornton fraudulently claimed and submitted false documentation that he had been employed as a seafood processor in New Orleans and had lost wages as result of the incident. He submitted several claims, according to the indictment, including a “final claim form” that he later requested to be modified from $50,000 to $500,000. Thornton allegedly received payments totaling $22,400 as a result of his fraudulent claims.

Thornton was arrested by U.S. Secret Service agents today and is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Wm. Smith in federal court in Houston tomorrow.

Each count of wire fraud and mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000, upon conviction.

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John Braddock.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.”

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