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Florida pair indicted in largest alleged BP claim scam

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu October 6, 2011
Crews clean up oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Grand Isle, Louisiana, in June 2010.
Crews clean up oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Grand Isle, Louisiana, in June 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joseph Harvey, 51, and Anja Kannell, 41, appear in federal court
  • They allegedly assumed 34 false identities to file oil-spill claims
  • Prosecutors say the two claimed $340,000 intended for victims of the Gulf spill

Washington (CNN) -- In the largest alleged BP oil spill-related scam uncovered to date, federal authorities on Thursday charged two Floridians with taking $340,000 in funds intended for victims of last year's environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Justice Department officials said Joseph Harvey, 51, and Anja Kannell, 41, of Delray Beach, Florida, appeared in federal court in Miami on Thursday to face indictments for mail fraud, wire fraud and aggressive identity theft. Prosecutors said the defendants claimed the money from a $20 billion fund set up to help legitimate victims of the spill recover lost income.

Justice officials said they have brought charges in at least 30 cases in which individuals tried to recover funds to which they were not entitled. This was the biggest case yet, according to the Justice Department.

Harvey and Kannell are accused of filing phony claims using 34 assumed identities of actual Florida residents.

These claims were complete with names and Social Security numbers, though they had fictitious addresses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Officials say the defendants instructed that all the funds be sent to an account they controlled in Texas.

A magistrate judge on Thursday ordered Harvey and Kannell to remain in custody, pending further court proceedings next week.

The charges carry 10-, 15- and 20-year prison sentences upon conviction.

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