Florida Keys

Woman ordered to pay $600,000 over BP oil-spill scam

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010. NYT

A Stock Island woman sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding the huge fund set up by BP to help those suffering from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill must pay more than $600,000 in restitution, a judge ruled.

Caridad Rioseco Alejandrez, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in April after her father Raul Rioseco, 74, had already admitted to the same crime and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

Raul Rioseco, a retired fisherman, was also ordered to pay $144,606 in restitution, though the daughter and father received only $35,900 and $55,00, respectively, from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility set up by BP.

He is serving his time at a federal halfway house in Miami, while his daughter is at the Miami federal detention center.

The Riosecos helped hundreds of Key West-area residents file false claims in an attempt to bilk the fund of $1.5 million but the actual amount paid to them was $607,566, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Florida.

“Despite the fact that none of the individuals had suffered the claimed losses,” the office said in a statement Tuesday.

After a hearing Nov. 30 in Key West, U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez decided Friday that Alejandrez owes the $607,566 for having filed false claims on behalf of others. The judge also gave Alejandrez three years of supervised probation once she is released from federal prison and ordered she immediately pay a lump sum of $100 in restitution.

Alejandrez was never a certified accountant but she worked for years preparing people’s tax returns and handling immigration paperwork.

To defraud the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, a $20 billion trust fund, Alejandrez provided false tax return documents and employment verification letters claiming losses from the oil spill disaster, which began with an explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers.

When the well was finally capped July 14, 2010, at least 3.19 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf.

Alejandrez was arrested in September 2015 and released in mid-October on a $250,000 bond. But she was ordered back to jail in late April after she tested positive for cocaine.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen