A San Antonio attorney wants his day in court sooner rather than later in a massive BP fraud case. But at least two more of the seven defendants want a delay, saying they need more time to prepare for trial.
The Sun Herald reports the seven defendants are scheduled to be tried together in December in U.S. District Court in Gulfport on 95 charges each of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, identify theft and aggravated identity theft.
Federal investigators contend Mikal Watts and six others filed thousands of false claims for damages from the April 2010 BP oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The indictment says the San Antonio law firm of Watts, Guerra and Craft submitted at least 41 claims using the names and identifies of individuals without their knowledge. These individuals were not seafood-industry workers, as the claims alleged, the indictment says.
The indictment charges two others who worked as non-attorneys in the law firm, Watts’ brother David Watts and mass-damages manager Wynter Lee.
It also charges three people who worked out of a BP claims office in Biloxi: Gregory Warren of Lafayette, Louisiana; Thi Houng “Kristy” Le, of Grand Bay, Alabama, and Le’s sister-in-law, Thi Hoang “Abby” Nguyen, also of Grand Bay. Hector Eloy Guerra of Weslaco, Texas, also is charged for allegedly gathering bogus claims for the law firm.
Both Le and Nguyen have court-appointed attorneys because they said they could not afford legal representation. Nguyen’s attorney is asking that the trial be continued until the Feb. 1 court term because she has not had time to review the evidence against her. An attorney for Wynter Lee also has filed a motion requesting a delay and waiving her right to a speedy trial.
Watts is ready to defend himself in December, according to his court filing. The motion says the investigation became public knowledge when Watts’ law office was searched 33 months ago.
Watts’ motion says he is not waiving his right to a speedy trial, but if the trial is delayed, he asks that Judge Louis Guirola set it for the court term that begins Feb. 1.
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