A licensed tax preparer from St. Petersburg pled guilty to federal charges related to fraudulent claims he allegedly filed for businesses attempting to recover non-existent losses from the Deepwater Horizon blowout and resulting oil spill.
Joseph Bassler inked a plea agreement in late April admitting to helping companies file for dozens of fraudulently-inflated loss claims in order to obtain a portion of the settlement money set aside by British Petroleum. The 2012 agreement was made to make whole those harmed by the crude oil spill that occurred at their well in the Gulf of Mexico two years prior.
According to the plea agreement, Bassler advertised himself as a professional accountant, claiming he could help companies file for and obtain payment from BP. Prosecutors say he agreed with his clients at the outset that he would retain fifteen percent of any money recovered from the claims he submitted. They say he prepared fraudulent documentation to accompany the false claims, including fake profit-and-loss statements, altered tax returns, and other forms necessary to prove up the non-existent losses.
All in all, federal prosecutors say the 61-year-old submitted over five dozen false claims, three of which were paid out before the scheme was discovered. Bassler’s alleged fraud netted his clients and him around $600,000 more than they were entitled to receive.
Bassler faces twenty years without the possibility of parole in federal prison for mail fraud and ten years imprisonment without parole for money laundering. In addition to prison time, he could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1.2 million for the former crime and $250,000 for the latter.
Though the court is not required to accept the plea agreement, prosecutors recommend that if it does, Bassler’s penalty should be adjusted downward due to his cooperation. A date for sentencing had not been set at the time local media reported upon the plea agreement.
The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.