A Texas lawyer has been indicted for making tens of thousands of false claims and for identity theft in relation to lawsuits against BP after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster, according to Associated Press.
San Antonio-based attorney Mikal Watts was indicted by a Mississippi federal grand jury and is slated to appear in court in Gulfport on Thursday October 29.
The charges relate to his alleged role in attempts to recover damages from BP, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, leaving 11 people dead and causing three months of continuous oil flow into the waters.
In 2010 Watts was one of 19 lawyers appointed by a judge to the plaintiffs steering committee – a group handling claims against BP.
But in 2011 suspicions began to be raised about the authenticity of the claims Watts was making. He claimed to have more than 40,000 under representation and many of the social security numbers used were inaccurate, a portion of them belonging to deceased people.
In 2013 it was reported that his law firm’s offices were raided by the Secret Service investigating financial fraud. That was soon followed by BP suing Watts. The oil giant said his falsely inflated roll of plaintiffs caused it to similarly inflate a $2.3 billion offer it made to cover commercial fishing claims.
In an official statement Watts, who was prominent in Texas Democratic political circles, has denied any wrongdoing and said he looks forward to having his day in court.