Pair get 13 years for BP oil spill fraud

Sept. 27, 2012 at 9:57 AM
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MIAMI, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A Florida couple convicted of filing false disaster relief claims after the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill were sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King Wednesday sentenced Joseph Harvey and his wife, Anja Karin Kannell, to 13 years in prison each for their scam, The Miami Herald reported.

During their trial, prosecutors said Harvey, 53, and Kannell, 42, filed claims totaling $1.26 million under the assumed identities of 34 people residing in Florida. Those claims were filed with a BP trust fund, as well as government agencies. The couple collected about $725,000.

"The defendants were leeches on the public and the government of the United States ... to support a lavish lifestyle," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald told the judge.

Defense attorneys tried to persuade King to give the couple more lenient sentences, citing their 7-year-old daughter, and Harvey tried to shift most of the blame onto himself.

"My wife only did what I informed her to do," Harvey said. "She did have some involvement, but not like my involvement."

However, King, citing the couple's expensive homes, cars and boats, gave each of them the same punishment.

"They intended to get as much money as they possibly could from the claims they submitted," King said.

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill, thousands of fraudulent compensation claims for lost wages or other economic damages were filed with the BP trust fund and government agencies. About 110 people nationwide were prosecuted for those claims.

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