A federal judge in New Orleans has ruled that a $357,000 payment in a damage claim from the 2010 BP oil spill must be repaid because the claim was fraudulent.
The claim had been made by Casey Thonn for seafood losses. An investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh determined it was made based on phony tax returns.
Freeh had recommended that the money be paid back and U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier agreed in an order issued April 29. The order outlined the evidence against Thonn, including the unfiled phony tax returns and forms that were filed with the Internal Revenue Service indicating Thonn had been unemployed when the spill occurred.
“In light of this evidence and Thonn’s failure to rebut it, the Court finds that the current record is sufficient to support a finding that Thonn committed fraud, without an evidentiary hearing,” Barbier wrote.
Barbier said Thonn is responsible for repaying the award and attorneys in the case are liable for fees they received. The ruling does not implicate the attorneys in wrongdoing.
Those attorneys include Louis Sutton III, whose resignation from the staff of the oil spill settlement claims administrator led to a broader court-ordered investigation by Freeh.
Messages left for Thonn’s and Sutton’s lawyers were not immediately returned.
In addition to Sutton, other attorneys and firms involved in the case, according to Barbier’s ruling, are Andry Lerner LLC, Jonathan Andry, Glen Lerner and Coastal Claims Group, LLC.
The ruling was the latest fallout from Freeh’s investigation of the claims process arising from a settlement of civil litigation following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore rig disaster that sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.