An Alabama couple ordered to pay back a $2.1 million Deepwater Horizon spill award are pinning the blame on their lawyer and told a judge they can not return the money because they used it to pay a judgment against them.
According to the Louisiana Record, Barbara J. Stokes and Scott B. Stokes of Huntsville were ordered last March to return the money after the fund’s special master, Louis Freeh, determined the award was fraudulently obtained.
In a report to the court, Freeh outlined a complicated scheme the Stokes used to defraud the spill fund that relied on a sham corporation the couple has set up in Florida, called Vision Design.
Freeh also found that the couple created fake IRS documents for the sole purpose of filing the Deepwater spill claim.
The couple told an Alabama judge they can’t repay the funds and blamed their attorney, Dennis Reich of Houston-based Reich & Binstock, and accountant for the problems surrounding the spill claim, the Louisiana Record said.
“Dennis Reich hired the account firm, I turned over all documents to Mr. Reich, BP paid the claim- Why can they ask for the money back? Why is Vision Design Management attorney Dennis Reich not wholly responsible for paying the entire claim back to BP? Dennis Reich filed the claim, he is an attorney and should have known better,” Barbara Stokes wrote in a letter to the judge.
The couple denies any wrongdoing and added that they can’t return their $1.6 million piece of the spill claim because it was used to satisfy an unspecified judgement against them.
Riech returned over $500,000 in legal fees he received for representing the Stokes, the Louisiana Record said.
The Stokes are no stranger to legal trouble.
Prior the Deepwater dust up, the couple used their company, Vision Design, to hide assets from plaintiffs in a loan default case.
The Stokes also defaulted on a loan tied to a beach development called Summerplace.