Oil Spill Fraud Nets Federal Prison for Panhandle Woman

40 year old Jennifer Lee of Destin, Florida has been sentenced to one year plus one day in federal prison for wire fraud as a result of her filing a fraudulent claim for losses from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

On May 2nd, Lee pled guilty to the charge, admitting that she submitted a fraudulent claim to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility for lost earnings at South Bay Ace Hardware & Lumber Company due to the oil spill.

In pleading guilty, Lee acknowledged that on October 7th, 2010, she submitted a Gulf Coast Claims Facility form via the Internet in an attempt to obtain 16,500 dollars. Lee submitted documentation to support her claim, including a letter that she wrote stating she missed an employment raise and commissions due to the oil spill. She also submitted a letter purportedly signed by her employer stating she was promised a raise and commissions, but the oil spill had negated the ability of the company to pay these amounts.

Between October 7th and December 7th of 2010, Lee placed seven phone calls to follow up on her claim.

In those calls, she complained about the waiting period because everyone else was getting their claimed money.

On December 10th, 2010, investigators interviewed Lee’s employer. When confronted with the letter he purportedly wrote on behalf of Lee, her employer informed investigators that he did not write or sign the letter.

On February 7th, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Lee at her residence as a follow up to this investigation. She admitted to writing the letter from her employer and told the agents that she did so with the intent of taking it to her employer for signature and notarization. Lee told the federal agents she went to her employer’s office, but he was not there. Lee told the agents that the office notary was there and that the notary told Lee to sign for her employer.

The FBI agents informed Lee that sounded inconsistent with the duties of a notary, and Lee then altered her story to delete the portion involving the notary.

Based upon the investigation, Lee never received the money.

In sentencing Lee to federal prison, Chief United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers noted how fraud harms the entire community.

Upon release from prison, Lee will be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for two years.