The five charged in today's indictment had recruited 15 others to make false claims, according to a statement from federal authorities.
The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers in April 2010. (Photo: EPA)
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Five people were indicted today in
connection with a family-led scheme to defraud the fund established by BP PLC for victims of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, federal
The five charged in today’s indictment had recruited 15
others to make false claims, according to a statement from federal authorities.
Marcella Truss, 53, her husband, Martee Davis, 41, both of
Grand Bay, Ala.; Robert Truss III, 26, Marcella Truss’ son, of Houston; Howard
Lenard Carroway, 42, Marcella Truss’ brother, of Mobile; and Cedric Dion
Ravizee, 37, of Birmingham were all indicted by a federal grand jury.
The five are charged with conspiring to commit wire and mail
fraud in order to make false claims of more than $2.4 million from the Gulf
Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), according to a joint statement by U.S. Attorney
Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr. About $1.4 million of the claims were actually
paid, according to the statement.
BP, which owned the Macondo Oil Well where the Deepwater
Horizon drilling rig exploded, established the GCCF in June 2010 to administer
and settle claims made against the company by individuals or business for
losses, damages or other costs resulting from the massive oil spill.
“This indictment, coming the same week as a series of
deadly and destructive tornadoes in Alabama, should be a strong warning to
anyone who considers taking advantage of a disaster to fraudulently enrich
themselves that we watch closely for this kind of crime,” Vance said.
“We place a high priority on the prompt investigation and prosecution of
fraud related to natural and man-made disasters to ensure that funds available
to help victims of those tragedies do not fall into the hands of
“Disasters bring out the best in people, who volunteer to
help with clean-up or make charitable donations. Sadly, disasters can also
bring out the worst in people, like scam artists,” Schwein said.
Schwein encouraged anyone with information about possible
disaster fraud to contact the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or the
Disaster Fraud e-mail at [email protected] Or fraud can be reported directly to
the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
The indictment charges that all five defendants recruited
individuals to provide personal identification information and pose as
claimants with the GCCF. Marcella Truss used the claimants’ identification
information and filed the fraudulent claims, and Robert Truss and Ravizee
helped claimants open bank accounts for receiving claim funds, according to the
All five would accompany claimants to banks to obtain
proceeds from the claim funds, and all five received portions of the false
claims that were paid, the statement quotes from the indictment.
So far, 15 others in north Alabama have been charged and
pleaded guilty since April 2013 to aiding and abetting the scheme to defraud
the GCCF, according to the statement.
According to the indictment, the GCCF paid about $1.4
million on the scheme’s fraudulent claims, all made between Aug. 27, 2010, and
Dec. 5, 2011. All the claims falsely stated that the individual had worked for
a company called Built by Request and had lost wages because of the Deepwater
Thirty-one of the BBR claims were filed by computer from an
Internet Protocol address in Center Point, according to the indictment. BBR was
a company registered with the State of Alabama by Marcella Truss. She and Davis
lived in Center Point during the period relevant to this indictment.
The five charged with the conspiracy to defraud the
oil-spill fund also face various other charges in the 60-count indictment,
including two counts of obstruction of justice against Carroway. The indictment
charges that Carroway tried to persuade two people to call the U.S. Attorney’s
Office to provide false information, intending to hinder communication with
prosecutors about the possible commission of a felony offense.
The FBI investigated this case, which Assistant U.S.
Attorney Henry Cornelius is prosecuting.