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Oil Spill Fraud: Mississippi Federal Grand Jury indicts Texas lawyer

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Oil spill in the ocean
David Rencher

Mikal Watts is a Texas lawyer who has just been indicted. He's accused of faking some of the more than forty-thousand damage claims he submitted on behalf of clients, after the BP oil spill in 2010.  

The idea is that Watts fraudulently bolstered his number of clients in order to obtain a seat on the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee. 

In a statement, Watts' attorney Robert McDuff says:

 "Mikal had no incentive to create a bogus client list in order to obtain a seat on the Plaintiff's Steering Committee. At the time that he filed these cases, Mikal believed he represented 40,000 plaintiffs, and that this list was composed of real people who suffered real injuries".

The indictment says Watts claimed an excess of 2 billion dollars on behalf of his clients. 

Howard Page is an affiliate of the STEPS Coalition - an organization that helps a large number of the oil spill victims. He says if the allegations against Watts are true, it could mean some victims settled for less than they should have. 

"These same deckhands and fishermen that STEPS Coalition was trying to help with this process are the ones that - who knows if any of them were effected by these fraudulent claims? Maybe this did effect their final outcome and the fact that they didn't get just compensation," says Page. 

The indictment charges Watts, his brother, and 5 others with 95 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, and aggravated identity theft.