A Key West man accused of filing fraudulent Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims pleaded guilty Wednesday in court as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Federal investigators allege that Cleon Major, 41, spearheaded a scheme in which he and three others provided the BP-funded Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) with fake employment and income paperwork in order to support false claims of lost wages that never existed in order to collect a total $93,500 from Oct. 27, 2010, through Feb. 7, 2011, according to a 15-page indictment handed down in a Miami court on July 27.
Major faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines up to $600,000 when he is sentenced on March 25.
Major had faced seven counts of wire fraud, four charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald agreed to drop all but one charge of wire fraud as part of the plea agreement, he told U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez.
Major had faced a maximum of 182 years in prison if convicted prior to the plea agreement.
Major and three other men were all arrested in July following an FBI investigation.
The government alleges that Major, 37, brought Adrian Glen Barnes, 37, David Dwayne Bacon, 53, and Donald Ray Sargent, 36, into the scheme and all four men used the Internet to file fake GCCF claim forms, according to the indictment.
Bacon, Barnes and Sargent all face one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Their cases remain ongoing and trial date of Jan. 14 was tentatively set in Key West.
A competency hearing was scheduled Dec. 14 for Barnes, before Martinez in Miami.
Prosecutors allege the four men used the names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses of people they knew to file false claims.
Monroe County Sheriff's Office and state court records indicate Major has been arrested five times on felony fraud and larceny charges, including a 2004 case in which he was convicted of passing $6,000 in forged checks at Key West banks and a supermarket.
Barnes has been arrested more than 15 times since 2002, mostly on drug possession and probation violation charges, according to jail records.
Bacon and Sargent have both been arrested seven times since 2001, mostly drug-related charges, according to Clerk of Court records.
In early June, BP closed the GCCF, under which the company administered the claims process and determined who was entitled to damages related to the oil spill.
The GCCF, which has been replaced by the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center -- has issued $191 million in payments to individuals and businesses in Monroe County.
The new claims process, however, is being governed by court-appointed officers in accordance with a settlement agreement BP entered into in April.