A major Hillary Clinton fundraiser has been indicted for false statements and identity theft related to the Deepwater Horizon litigation.
The San Antonio Express-News reported Wednesday that a federal grand jury in Mississippi has indicted Mikal Watts, a Texas attorney who has been accused of using false identities to inflate the number of clients he was representing in the class action lawsuit against BP.
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The indictment comes several months after a top Republican lawmaker questioned whether the Obama administration was slow-walking the case for political reasons. The Secret Service, which investigates identity theft and counterfeiting, initially raided Watts’s office in 2013.
"Although investigations were opened by the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, it appears that little action by the Justice Department has been taken since details of the probe surfaced in 2013," wrote Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in a July 13 letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
"Mr. Watts is a significant political donor, and the Department’s inaction raises questions about why it has apparently declined to pursue charges."
Watts reportedly claimed to represent 44,000 clients who were impacted by the 2010 BP oil spill. He has been accused of falsifying many of these identities in order to gain a lucrative position on the committee of lawyers representing the oil spill victims, which won a $2.3 billion settlement from BP in 2012.
BP sued Watts in 2013, claiming that he only ended up filing 648 compensation claims, the majority of which were deemed ineligible. The oil giant said it agreed to pay a higher settlement than it otherwise would have based on the belief that Watts was representing tens of thousands of clients.
According to BP, many of Watts’s alleged clients were linked to false social security numbers, were not qualified to receive compensation, were dead, or said they never hired the attorney.
Watts has also been sued by a group of Vietnamese Americans who say he falsely claimed to represent them, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Watts hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary in November 2013 that drew prominent supporters such as Craig Smith, a longtime Clinton aide who now serves as an adviser to the 2016 campaign. The event brought in $100,000 for the pro-Clinton Super PAC.