NEW ORLEANS – In one of the more brazen schemes to defraud BP in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a North Carolina man has been indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering after allegedly creating a web of paperwork to substantiate a multimillion dollar claims payment for a non-existent luxury resort.
The Department of Justice announced the indictment of Michael Rosella, 45, of Wilmington, N.C., yesterday. Rosella is alleged to have submitted a $2.3 million claim to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on behalf of the non-existent Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort, which he presented as a luxury hotel and sports fishing business located in the Barataria Basin on Louisiana’s coast.
On Nov. 2, 2010, Rosella, who was a resident of Washington, D.C., submitted a claim through Se7en LLC, a company owned by him, purporting to be the representative of the Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort and seeking $2,012,238 in damages. Rosella went so far as to create a website for the fictitious resort to justify the claim.
The website included photos of a large coastal resort hotel, a speedboat and several images of the results of the oil spill and a notice that the resort has been shut down until further notice.
“The Bayou Barataria Sportsmans' Resort is the work of brothers Jack, Phil and Paul Felixe," an archived version of the website reads. "Growing up in the Louisiana bayou, the brothers had a passion both for the hunting and fishing but also for the preservation of the environment and the creatures that call it home." Screenshot of the website connected to Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort, which the Department of Justice says was part of an elaborate scheme to defraud BP.
The extent of the purported fraudulent activities also included the creation of a cache of falsified paperwork including federal tax filings, state sales tax records, financial statements, invoices and even false affidavits of the non-existent owners, the Felix brothers, of Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort concerning how the oil spill had affected their business. Screenshot of the website connected to Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort, which the Department of Justice says was part of an elaborate scheme to defraud BP.
On March 8, 2011, Rosella allegedly accepted a payment of $2,335,807 made out to him in care of Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort that he deposited into a private savings account and that afterward he also opened a checking account in the name of Bayou Barataria Sportsmen’s Resort at the same bank and transferred $100,000 into it in an alleged attempt at money laundering.
The alleged fraud is one of the more intricate fabrications that has come to light since BP opened up it coffers immediately after the oil spill to those economically affected by event.
While the oil giant has paid out billions in compensation to residents and businesses of the Gulf Coast there is increasing evidence, such as in Rosella’s case, of widespread fraudulent activities that have resulted in tens of millions of claims wrongfully paid out. To date, government officials have indicted at least 245 people, many of whom have been convicted of fraud.
Rosella’s case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service.