Criminal Justice News

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Orleans Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Gulf Coast Claims Facility


NEW ORLEANS—Dwayne Smith, age 41, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty in federal court today before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier to one-count of mail fraud relating to a fraudulent application he made to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for financial assistance during the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

According to court documents, Smith left New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit this area. He was a resident and businessman in the state of Georgia from 2005 to 2010. Approximately four months after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Smith returned to New Orleans and set up a business known as “D&D Designs.” In October 2010, Smith submitted a false and fraudulent application to the GCCF stating his business had lost $100,000 in business profits as a result of the disaster. To substantiate his claim, Smith submitted false and fraudulent tax returns and business documents falsely stating his business had operated in New Orleans at a profit for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, and the first part of 2010. As a result of his false and fraudulent application and documentation, Smith received an emergency advance payment in the form of a $75,000 check on December 10, 2010 and a final GCCF claim payment of $25,000 on February 3, 2011.

Upon sentencing, scheduled for September 20, 2012, Smith faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, a $250,000 fine, full restitution to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, three years of supervised release following imprisonment, and a $100 special assessment.

This case was brought as part of this District’s partnership with the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), a nationwide initiative to protect available funds and assistance for those victims of both natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and the recent Gulf oil spill. If you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, you can contact the NCDF by either calling the hotline at (866) 720-5721, faxing the hotline at (225) 334-4707, e-mailing at disaster@leo.gov, or writing to National Center for Disaster Fraud, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70821-4909.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marvin Opotowsky, Disaster Fraud Coordinator.

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