(GULFPORT, Miss.) — Mikal Watts is regarded as a Democratic kingmaker and wealthy Texas trial lawyer who even hosted a private $35,000-a-plate fundraiser for President Obama at his home.
He is now under federal indictment for allegedly fraudulently representing thousands of clients — including a handful of dead people and a dog — in litigation against BP after the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill.
Watts appeared in federal court Thursday in Mississippi along with his brother, David, who is also charged.
Both men, along with five others, allegedly used stolen and false identities of people to sign up as plaintiffs in their case against BP, eventually claiming to represent more than 40,000 individuals making claims against BP valued in excess of $2 billion.
“The defendants, without contacting the individuals, would obtain names, addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers from any source available to create “clients” for anticipated litigation as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” federal prosecutors said in a statement. They also allegedly knew “that the individuals had not consented to be represented by the firm, and/or that stolen and false social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and occupations were claimed.”
The indictment alleges that among the bogus clients Mikal Watts signed up were four dead people and a boat deckhand named “Lucy Lu,” who the government says is actually a dog.
“The defendants in this case are accused of exploiting a disaster relief program set up to help those who were injured or suffered an economic loss as a result of the BP Oil spill – the worst environmental disaster in American history,” U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis said in a statement.
According to court papers, in one e-mail about changing data related to 2,000 Social Security numbers and dates of birth, Mikal Watts’ brother wrote, “This does not pass the smell test??????”
A lawyer only identified as “Attorney 2” allegedly reached out to Watts to try to tell him his plans might be running into trouble.
According to the indictment, the attorney said, “Mikal, you know I say this with love in my heart so hear me on this, this is either a super secret plan for a billion dollar success that I just don’t see… [or] it is a ‘king has no clothes’ cluster f___ that needs to be dealt with, openly, quickly and effectively.”
After BP agreed to a massive multi-billion dollar settlement, Watts allegedly wrote an email stating, “there is a special limited fund of $2.3 billion to cover all the claims. Importantly, BP pays the $2.3 whether the proof supports it or not. It does not…”
Watts’ attorney, Robert McDuff, said in a statement that his client took steps to prevent fraud and is “not guilty of the crimes of which he is accused.”
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