Serial Storm Chasers Also Chase Identities

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest environmental disaster in US history, was also an opportunity for con artists. Some scammers seized the moment to make an easy fortune.

Laine Silverfield, fraud victim, told us, “Leslie called one day saying someone had taken her identity… and accused her of doing things she hadn't done.”

Laine’s only sister, Leslie, was disabled and Laine took care of her.

“It turned out someone had used her identification in a fraudulent activity saying she was s tattoo artist and she was no longer able to be in business," said Laine.

Leslie was not a tattoo artist or small business owner.

“This couldn't be true… unfortunately Leslie couldn't leave the city where we lived she had limited use of her hands and no use of her legs," explained Laine.

Joseph Harvey and Anja Kannell Harvey —a husband-wife team of con artists-- had stolen Leslie’s identity and filed a false claim that her business had been closed by the BP oil spill.

Postal inspectors say Harvey and Kannell were serial “storm chasers”.

“They were chasing storms throughout the country. Anytime there was a storm and some type of federally funded program established they would basically attack that program," explained US Postal Inspector Claudia Angel.

Following the BP oil spill, the two scammers stole the identities of 115 people and filed false claims worth $700,000.

Inspectors have an idea where they got the names.

“Possibly a hospital, a clinic, because there was a link between the victims that seemed to have visited hospitals throughout that time period," said Claudia

As for the 700 thousand dollars?

“The two supported a lavish lifestyle; they drove Bentleys, they drove Mercedes Benz, they had yachts, a 47-foot cruiser, they had another smaller one, they had mansions and rental mansions," Claudia told us.

The take away from this case — do everything you can to protect your personal information.

Harvey and Kannell were convicted and each sentenced to 13 years in prison. They were also ordered to pay $440,000 in restitution to the victims and $440,000 to the US government.

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