A Slidell, La., man at the center of an investigation into claims of fraud in the BP oil spill settlement program was charged Tuesday with two counts of felony wire fraud.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Casey Thonn, 35, in 2012 “devised a scheme to defraud” the Deepwater Horizon Economic Claims Center by submitting fraudulent tax return forms with his shrimping claim.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports a bill of information charges Thonn with two counts of wire fraud connected with two interstate transfers of funds totaling $357,00 0 from the fund to his lawyer’s account.
Thonn was the target of an investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh who was appointed to probe claims of wrongdoing in the settlement program established for people and businesses hurt by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Earlier this year, Freeh asked a federal judge in New Orleans to order repayment of the $357,000 award, claiming Thonn had submitted false documents and misrepresented his shrimping income, according to court filings.
Freeh also recommended a federal criminal investigation into Thonn’s claim.
The FBI opened a criminal investigation into the case. In April, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ordered Thonn repay the award.
Prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office say Thonn submitted multiple claims in June 2012 for money he claimed his shrimping business lost as a result of the spill.
The claims program notified Thonn in November he was eligible for a $1,750.36 payment. A month later, Thonn asked the program to reconsider his claim and provided a false tax return that showed his shrimping business made $156,000 in sales in 2009, according to court records.
In March 2013, Thonn received $357,002.35 from the claims program.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval. A hearing is set for Oct. 6.
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