St. Petersburg Tax Preparer Gets Prison Sentence in Oil Spill Fraud Scheme
He prepared and submitted fraudulently inflated claims falsely alleging that his clients lost income because of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
TAMPA – U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich has sentenceda St. Petersburg tax preparer to federal prison for his part in a fraudulent scheme arising from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
Joseph Bassler, 62, of St. Petersburg, was sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison for money laundering and mail fraud. As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $77,224, the proceeds of the scheme. Bassler had pleaded guilty June 6, 2017.
According to court documents, Bassler, a licensed tax preparer, held himself out as a professional accountant who could assist companies affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in filing business economic loss claims. As part of his scheme, Bassler prepared and submitted fraudulently inflated claims falsely alleging lost income on behalf of his clients. As payment for his services, he accepted a portion of the recovery money for the loss claims he had prepared. In total, Bassler submitted 62 claims, three of which were paid. For the three claims that were paid, Bassler and his clients received over $600,000 more than they were entitled to from the compensation fund. The remaining claims were denied when Bassler’s fraudulent scheme was discovered.
“When unprincipled fraudsters file false claims against businesses they frustrate the legal system and disrupt the natural flow of our economy,” said Special Agent in Charge Mary Hammond of IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS-CI is fiercely committed to defending the integrity of our nation’s tax system, and a significant aspect of that duty is to work with our fellow law enforcement partners to help maintain equity in the marketplace.”
Eric W. Sporre, special agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division, said, “It is reprehensible to exploit any disaster for personal gain. It is our duty to protect the relief funds set aside for economic disasters such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and ensure the money goes to those deserving of assistance.”
This case was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the FBI.
U.S. Attorney | Courts | Crime | Oil Spill | Deepwater Horizon | Tampabay News
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