Jacksonville woman scammed during historic oil spill

Inspectors say con artists were serial 'storm chasers'

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the largest environmental disaster in United States history, was also an opportunity for con artists. Leslie, who lives here in Jacksonville, was targeted.

"Leslie called one day saying someone had taken her identity… and accused her of doing things she hadn't done," said Laine Silverfield, Leslie's 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.

Investigators say 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 oil spill.

"As a caregiver, let me tell you it is a stressful for the people for whom you are taking care of," said Laine. "Their lives are very difficult lives and they are fragile people, then to have this beast of burden on their shoulders is really, really hard."

Postal inspectors say the duo 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 huge spill, investigators say 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 Angel.

So where did the $700,000 go?

"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," said Angel.

The lesson to be learned is to do everything you can to protect your information.

"Growing up, we learned the only thing you really have is your good name and now a criminal has taken it. I'm just really wanting to get the word out," said Laine.

The duo 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 United States Government.

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