Texas attorney Mikal Watts. Image courtesy of Watts Guerra/Youtube.

Texas attorney Mikal Watts was acquitted on Thursday of charges that he filed thousands of fraudulent claims to a Deepwater Horizon spill compensation fund.

According to the Associated Press, Watts, his brother David Watts and Wynter Lee, an employee at Watts’ law firm, were acquitted of all charges by a Mississippi jury.

Eloy Guerra and Thi Hoang “Abbie” Nguyen were also acquitted of all charges.

Gregory Warren and Thi Houng “Kristy” Le were convicted on 66 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and identity theft, the AP said.

Watts was indicted in October on charges of identity theft and making false claims after BP accused him of filing claims on behalf of non-existent and deceased claimants as part of the Seafood Compensation Program tied to the 2010 spill.

BP filed a lawsuit against Watts in December 2013 that alleged only 42 percent of the Social Security numbers tied to claims Watts filed could be verified.

Another 13 percent of the Social Security numbers used by Watts were allegedly incomplete or fabricated and 5 percent allegedly belonged to deceased persons other than the claimants.

BP claims that Watts used that information to boost his roster of clients who filed claims against BP in an effort to win a spot on the plaintiff’s steering committee.

Watts resigned from the steering committee in 2013 after BP’s allegations became public.

According to a statement released by the Department of Justice last October, the defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury on 95 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, identity theft, and aggravated identity theft.

The indictment alleged that the defendants fraudulently submitted the names of over 40,000 individuals as plaintiffs represented by Watts, knowing that the individuals had not consented to be represented by his firm.

The defendants allegedly submitted claims worth more than $2 billion to BP, the DOJ said.

Watts denied any wrongdoing.

According to the Texas Lawyer, Watts told jurors that he had been “ripped off” by the other defendants who he claimed fabricated the identities without his knowledge.

Watts said during the trial that the other defendants used funds they were paid to collect information on potential clients for personal expenses, including “gentlemen clubs, hotels, wine” and “cigars.”

According to the Texas Lawyer, Watts told jurors that the fraudulent scheme “makes me so angry, I want to throw up. I got ripped off. The evidence is clear.”

BP’s lawsuit was on hold until the criminal case was complete.

No hearing date or any further information about BP’s case against Watts has been disclosed yet.


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