Justice Department Indictment Filed Texas
Rancho Viejo man arrested in BP oil spill fund investigation
A 36-year-old Rancho Viejo man is out on bail following his arrest on charges he provided false invoices in support of lost income in order to recover disaster-relief money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Sergio Corona surrendered to U.S. Marshals on Nov. 30 after learning an indictment had been filed against him, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported in a press release.
He was released pending trial before U.S. Magistrate John Froeschner. No trial date has been scheduled.
Corona is the first individual in the Southern District of Texas accused of trying to defraud a trust fund set up by BP to compensate victims of one of the nation’s worst oil disasters, the press release said.
He is one of 30 individuals indicted on Friday for filing false claims for money following the oil spill.
The charges — which include mail and wire fraud, and, in at least one case, identity fraud — involve 24 people in Texas and North Carolina; four in Alabama, Michigan and Mississippi; and one in Louisiana.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Corona filed the claims under a business he claimed to own called Sea Shell Jewelry and Collectibles. Corona did not return a telephone message left at his Rancho Viejo residence seeking comment Friday.
Authorities said Corona is charged in a one-count indictment that cites making various representations in connection with a claim he made seeking more than $28,000 in compensation.
According to the indictment, shortly after BP announced it was going to set up a $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the oil spill, Corona “applied for benefits and knowingly transmitted or caused to be transmitted via wire allegedly false and fraudulent receipts and invoices in support of the lost-income claim.”
The amount Corona was seeking was listed as $28,434.
“Thousands of deserving victims are relying on the trust fund created by BP to restore their losses resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said U.S. Attorney Jose Moreno. “Fraud upon the trust fund threatens to re-victimize those who truly experienced losses and will not be tolerated. The Southern District of Texas will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who attempts to deprive victims of the compensation they deserve.”
If convicted, Corona faces a maximum of 20 years imprisonment as well as a $250,000 fine.