The results of a two-month long investigation into allegations of fraud within the 2010 oil spill settlement program have revealed an alleged kickback scheme enacted by a claims attorney.
Lionel Sutton, a former senior attorney within the Court Supervised Settlement Program, or CSSP, is accused of taking a $40,000 referral fee from the Andry Lerner Law Firm and attempted to more quickly resolve a claim worth $7,908,460.
The New Orleans firm, which bills itself as “BP Oil Spill Lawyers” on the firm website, is accused of using Sutton’s position within the claims center to make the acceptance of the claim in question faster and easier.
The investigation was headed by ex-FBI Director Louis B. Freeh who was asked to be a special investigator on the case by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in early July after claims administrator Patrick Juneau revealed that an internal investigation into the CSSP showed potential conflicts of interest.
The $7.9 million claim in question was originally a case handled by Christine Reitano, Sutton’s wife, who shortly after receiving the case became an employee of the claims administration office. Subsequent to her appointment Sutton is alleged to have referred the case to the Andry Lerner Law Firm for a referral fee to be paid to Crown LLC, a water reclamation company he owned and in which Andry Lerner partner Glen Lerner had invested $1 million.
Freeh stated in the report that...
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- Firm challenges hold on processing its BP claims (nzherald.co.nz)
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- Freeh: Possible corruption in BP claims handling (thenewstribune.com)