Crime

Gautier man claimed he lost his deckhand job after oil spill. Now he’ll serve time.

Leonard Charles Thomas
Leonard Charles Thomas

A former Gautier man has admitted he didn’t work as a deckhand in Pass Christian on a boat called Striker or Mississippi Strike, as his claim for BP oil spill recovery money said. And he wasn’t earning his living as a shrimp and oyster fisherman.

Leonard Charles Thomas, 39, has admitted he committed mail fraud by submitting a claim to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that included falsified receipts, tax documents and a letter showing he was employed on the boat, court papers show. The GCCF handled recovery claims after the oil spill of April 2010.

The claim would have allowed him to receive $172,800. Thomas received a total of $118,171.52, and he must pay it back, U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden wrote in a judgment Tuesday.

Ozerden sentenced him on Aug. 31 to 25 months in prison and three years of post-release supervision. Thomas faced up to 20 years behind bars.

Thomas is one of several people who falsely claimed they worked on a boat with those names, court documents show.

A federal grand jury indicted him on Oct. 21, 2014, and handed down a new indictment March 18, 2015.

He was arrested in a traffic stop nearly seven months ago.

Thomas had been paroled on two drug convictions in July 2012, but had not kept in touch with his parole officer, a court paper says. A Mississippi Highway Patrol state trooper arrested him on traffic violations Feb. 12. A background check showed two parole warrants and the federal arrest warrant.

Thomas was brought to court Feb. 17. He pleaded not guilty and has been held with no bond.

He accepted a plea deal on April 25. The indictment said Thomas committed his crimes in Harrison and Jackson counties.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones was the prosecutor.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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