FILE - In this April 21, 2010 file photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, fire boat response crews spray water on the burning BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. An April 20, 2010 explosion at the platform killed 11 men, and the subsequent leak released an estimated 172 million gallons of petroleum into the gulf. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP, File)

Tampa, Florida (Gov.) – Acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow announces that Joseph Bassler (61, St. Petersburg) has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on the mail fraud count and up to 10 years in federal prison for the money laundering offense.

According to the plea agreement, Bassler, a licensed tax-preparer, held himself out as a professional accountant who could assist companies affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in filing business economic loss claims. As part of his scheme, Bassler prepared and submitted fraudulently inflated claims falsely alleging lost income on behalf of his clients. He also created false documents, including false monthly profit and loss statements, that he provided in support of the fraudulent lost income claims. As payment for his services, he accepted a portion of the recovery money for the loss claims that he had prepared. In total, Bassler submitted 62 claims, three of which were paid. For the three claims that were paid, Bassler and his clients received over $600,000 more than they were entitled from the compensation fund. The remaining claims were denied when Bassler’s fraudulent scheme was discovered.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachel K. Jones.