7 plead guilty in Gulf oil spill settlement fraud

FILE - In this April 21, 2010 file photo, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico. In the year since the Gulf oil spill, officials along the coast have gone on a spending spree with BP money, dropping tens of millions of dollars on gadgets, vehicles and gear _ much of which had little to do with the cleanup, an Associated Press investigation shows. The oil giant opened its checkbook while the crisis was still unfolding last spring and poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Gulf Coast communities with few strings attached. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Seven people have pleaded guilty to stealing money from an oil spill settlement fund, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced Monday.

Five of the defendants were charged with theft of property. They’re collectively ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution, officials said.

The defendants were indicted by a Mobile County grand jury on accusations that they created fake documents to file fraudulent claims saying they had lost income because of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Defendants who were paid from the settlement fund have been sentenced to between one and five years in prison. Their sentences will be suspended and they’ll get probation if each pays court costs and restitution to BP, Strange said.

James Carlton Gibbons, of Chickasaw, is ordered to pay $2,760, and Arthur Thomas Isham Jr. of Bayou La Batre is ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution, officials said. Isham was sentenced to one year and Gibbons was sentenced to five years in prison, officials said.

Nicholas Shane Graham, of Mobile, has been sentenced to two years in prison and is ordered to pay $4,400 in restitution.

Derek J. Strong and Jessica Danille Verrett, both of Irvington, have each been sentenced to five years in prison, officials said. Irvington has been ordered to pay $4,800 in restitution and Strong is ordered to pay $5,760.

Officials say two others, Marie Nicole Williams and Toni Leann Strong, of Theodore, were each charged with possession of a forged instrument and have been sentenced to two years in prison. They were not ordered to pay restitution because they were never paid any settlement money.

Charges are still pending against three others who were indicted in May, Strange said.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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