Feds nab Florida fisherman for attempting to defraud regarding oil spill

The Miami HeraldAugust 31, 2011 

Eliu Gonzalez, a South Florida fisherman who worked the waters off Miami-Dade and Monroe counties for more than a decade, lived hundreds of miles from the Deepwater Horizon rig when it exploded in April 2010.

But that didn’t stop Gonzalez from logging onto the British Petroleum’s Gulf Coast claim center website five months later, stating that that the massive oil spill cost him more than $110,000 in lost income.

Gonzalez is no longer on the open seas, but rather behind bars. Federal prosecutors have charged him with attempting to defraud the Horizon Oil Spill Trust, which was established to reimburse those impacted by the catastrophe.

Gonzalez, formerly of Florida City and held without bond as a flight risk, is the first to face prosecution in the Southern District of Florida on Deepwater-related fraud charges. His three-page indictment, unsealed Tuesday, did not make clear what exactly he feloniously told Gulf Coast Claims Facility — responsible for administering, mediating, and settling certain Deepwater-related grievances. It merely stated that Gonzalez, 36, knew that his claim of losing $110,616 in income was bogus.

“Dishonest individuals who seek illicit gains through false damage claims wind up further burdening the victims who really need compensation,” said acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Dena E. Choucair. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to root out the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice.”

Gonzalez’s court and state paper trail indicates he was an active fisherman with a long list of marine-related run-ins with the law, both in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

In 1997, he received six months probation — which he later violated — after pleading no-contest to spearfishing at John Pennekamp State Park, a restricted area. He later was fined for the possession of undersized lobster and dolphin fish in Miami-Dade. He has paid out more than $1,000 in fishing-related fines since 1999.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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