Lawyer accused of fraud by U.S. in BP oil spill case is acquitted

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A prominent Texas lawyer was acquitted on Thursday of charges he made up thousands of fake clients to sue BP Plc <BP.L> for damages that the oil company caused in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, court records show.

Mikal Watts was among five defendants found not guilty by a Mississippi federal jury of charges related to an alleged scheme to defraud a programme set up by BP to compensate people who suffered economic losses from the spill. Two other defendants were found guilty.

The U.S. Department of Justice had accused the defendants of submitting claims on behalf of more than 40,000 people who had not agreed to be represented by Watts’ firm, or else were identified with stolen or bogus Social Security numbers and other personal information.

According to the indictment, one alleged victim, named Lucy Lu, who supposedly was a deckhand on a commercial seafood vessel, was actually a dog.

The convicted defendants were Gregory Warren and Thi Houng “Kristy” Le, who prosecutors said helped collect names and information.

Also acquitted were Watts’ brother David Watts and Wynter Lee, who both worked for Mikal Watts’ San Antonio law firm, and field representatives Hector Eloy Guerra and Thi Hoang “Abbie” Nguyen, who was Le’s sister-in-law.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Mikal Watts, who represented himself at trial, and lawyers for Warren and Le did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BP last month estimated it would incur $61.6 billion (£46.8 billion) of overall liabilities for the April 20, 2010 spill, including for cleanup costs, damages claims and regulatory penalties.

The case is U.S. v. Watts et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Mississippi, No. 15-cr-00065.

Share this article

Follow Offshore Energy Today

Events>

<< Jan 2020 >>
MTWTFSS
30 31 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 1 2

Africa Oil Week 2020

For over 25 years Africa Oil Week has been the meeting place for Africa’s most senior E&P stakeholders.

read more >

CERAWeek 2020

 Each year, CERA clients gathered for a few days in Houston…

read more >

Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) 2020

The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) showcases leading-edge technology for offshore drilling, exploration…

read more >

2020 EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION STANDARDS CONFERENCE ON OILFIELD EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS

The development of consensus standards is one of API’s oldest and most successful programs.

read more >

Jobs>

Looking to fill a job opening?

By advertising your job here, on the homepage of OffshoreEnergyToday.com, you'll reach countless professionals in the sector. For more information, click below...

apply

Looking to fill a job opening?

By advertising your job here, on the homepage of OffshoreEnergyToday.com, you'll reach countless professionals in the sector. For more information, click below...

apply