Meridian Star

September 26, 2013

MPD investigates alleged BP oil spill scam

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Wednesday around noon, Meridian Police Department officers and detectives converged on a home on North Hills Street after receiving several reports about people at the home soliciting for personal information and promising the residents they would get monetary compensation from the nation's worst marine oil spill.

    MPD Asst. Chief James Sharpe said the alleged monetary benefits were said to be coming from settlement money from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The reports, according to Sharpe, said the operators of two locations in Meridian, one at Eighth Street and 27th Avenue, and the other at a home located in the 6600 block of North Hills Street, were collecting personal information such as driver's licenses, tax returns, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, and other data.

    "We are currently compiling information, collecting evidence and we plan on consulting other state and federal agencies," Sharpe said. "We will request any assistance they can provide in regards to any law enforcement actions we may need to take."

    For more than an hour officers and detectives spent time inside the home on North Hills Street Wednesday collecting various types of items they deemed to be associated with the claims.

    "Officers and investigators with the department made contact with persons of interest and are currently investigating the legitimacy of their actions," Sharpe said.

    No on has been arrested or charged with any crimes.

    The BP oil spill, known as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig claimed 11 lives and the sea-floor oil gusher flowed for 87 days until it was capped on July 15, 2010. The total discharge is estimated at 4.9 million barrels.

    BP and the Department of Justice agreed to a record-setting $4.525 billion in fines and other payments but further legal proceedings not expected to conclude until 2014 are ongoing to determine payouts and fines under the Clean Water Act and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment. As of February 2013, criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost the company $42.2 billion.

    Sharpe said the department cautions citizens against those who promise settlements from large nationally advertised settlement funds and any unknown and unverified entity that requests personal information.

    "At this time the police department advises citizens not to utilize these suspicious services until the investigation is concluded," Sharpe said.