PENSACOLA, FL—Jennifer J. Lee (40) 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 2, 2012, 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 and Lumber Company due to the oil spill.
In pleading guilty, Lee acknowledged that on October 7, 2010, she submitted a Gulf Coast Claims Facility form via the Internet in an attempt to obtain $16,500. Lee submitted documentation to support this 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 7, 2010, and December 7, 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 10, 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 7, 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 for this purpose, 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 this 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 $16,500.
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.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David L. Goldberg.