BP has filed a lawsuit against a Texas lawyer, accusing him of filing fraudulent claims “on behalf of non-existent and even deceased claimants in the Seafood Compensation Program that provides payments over damage related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” the Louisiana Record said.
Nearly half of the 43,000 social security numbers of deckhands attorney Mikal Watts of San Antonio’s Watts Guera LLP provided to the Seafood Fund are alleged by BP to belong to “phantom” clients.
BP claims the $2.3 billion seafood fund was inflated by Watts’ purported clients, which they say comprised of 76 percent of all the claims against the fund, the Louisiana Record said.
The suit was filed in mid December.
“The Watts Defendants knew that their representations regarding the number of individual clients claiming seafood-industry losses were false, as over half of their alleged seafood claimants are phantoms or are the victims of identity theft, and as more than 95 percent never filed a claim with the Program,” the lawsuit alleges.
BP alleges that only 42 percent of the social security numbers could have their identities confirmed. Another 13 percent were incomplete or dummy social security numbers and 5 percent belonged to a dead person other than the claimant, BP’s suit charged.
BP called Watts’ actions “brazen fraud.”
Through the lawsuit BP is seeking to reduce the size of the seafood fund and suspend further distributions, the report said.
“The filing also states that there appears to be an ongoing criminal investigation by U.S. Department of Justice over Watts’ handling of BP cases. In March, his law offices were raided by the U.S. Secret Service, who were searching for records related to BP clients,” the Louisiana Record, a newspaper that reports legal news, said.
No indictments or criminal charges have been filed.