Four family members of Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier were included in a federal fraud indictment filed last month, alleging they and three other individuals falsified documents pertaining to BP oil spill compensation in 2010 and 2011. Among those indicted was Spencer Collier’s 24-year-old son Christopher Chance Collier, who earlier this year was served with a warrant and arrested for drug-related offenses. The drug case was bound over to grand jury in July, according to records.
Also named in September’s federal indictment were:
Harvey Eugene Collier Jr., a brother of Secretary Collier
Tonya Renee Collier, a former sister-in-law of Secretary Collier
Wayne Eric Collier Jr., a nephew of Secretary Collier
Simon Jonathan Williams
Bobby Wayne Rodgers
Michael Thomas Steiner
The indictment charges each defendant with one count of access device fraud and one count of mail fraud, alleging that each stole more than $1,000 from the Deepwater Horizon Spill Trust Fund by filing fraudulent claims through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Christopher Collier, Simon Williams, Bobby Rodgers and Michael Steiner have pleaded not guilty.
Access device fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison with fines of as much as $250,000, while a conviction on mail fraud can carry a 20-year sentence and $250,000 fine.
At an arraignment for defendant Bobby Rodgers Oct. 23, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy said she could not provide details of the case beyond the indictment. Rodgers, who has been an inmate at Mobile County Metro Jail for the past 11 months on unrelated charges, was declared indigent and appointed the representation of attorney Gordon Armstrong.
Richard Alexander, an attorney appointed to represent Simon Williams in the case, said the indictment is unusual because it names multiple defendants but does not include a conspiracy charge.
“Last week prosecutors provided 4,100 pages of discovery,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to sort it out but from the indictment, it’s very difficult to tell what the allegation is. Basically it’s a mail fraud count using standard language alleging an event that was covered under a federal statute. So you have to assume it’s a BP-based claim.”
Alexander, who has made a career of representing civil and criminal defendants from Bayou la Batre, said he recognized the Colliers’ names and their relationship to the Spencer Collier, but would not explain if his own client was related to the family.
“I recognize the names,” he said. “In Bayou la Batre you have a number of Collier families. I believe [everyone in the indictment] are kin to each other because it’s just a small community, but I don’t know what the bottom line of these cases are or why they are indicted together. We’ll figure it out and will go from there.”
The GCCF, which administered BP claims from 2010-2012, was established by federal proclamation during a period of time that Spencer Collier represented south Mobile County in the state legislature. While then-State Rep. Collier appears to have had very little if any role in the management of that facility, he was among a handful of local elected official charged with administering a separate, $25 million disaster grant from BP.
According to news reports from the time, the high administration fees of the $25 million grant to Galbraith and Associates, as well as the award of a $7.2 million boom contract to the brother of then-Bayou la Batre Mayor Stan Wright, caused some discord between Collier and then-State Sen. Ben Brooks, who is now a Mobile County Circuit Court Judge. During Wright’s trial earlier this year, prosecutors hinted at an investigation involving the BP funds.
Both grant administrator Janey Galbraith and Wright were later convicted of fraud involving a separate, Hurricane Katrina-related grant, but in defending the $500,000 Galbraith was awarded to administer the BP grant, Collier said at the time, “[Sen. Brooks] has chosen to sit on the sideline and point out what we’re doing wrong. Maybe mistakes have been made, but we moved quickly, as opposed to just sitting on the side criticizing. I would challenge him – roll your sleeves up and get involved and help with the problem solving.”
State records indicate that just three weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010, Spencer Collier formed a company, Alabama Resources, LLC, for the purpose of “consulting.” Collier, who is apparently recovering from a recent back surgery, was unable to immediately answer questions about the nature of the business, but it appears to have been dissolved the following January.
Sources familiar with the process claim Collier’s wife Melissa, a registered nurse, performed drug testing for the Vessels of Opportunity program.
Collier was appointed to current position last December by Gov. Robert Bentley. The Alabama Department of Homeland Security, which was created in 2003 by the state legislature, administers grants for public safety and emergency preparedness.
Meanwhile, Sec. Collier’s brother Harvey Collier, Jr., was arrested in March on three counts of assault, felony DUI, harassment and giving a false name to a law enforcement officer. Harvey accepted a plea agreement in that case and is currently serving two years of probation.
A trial date for the fraud cases has been set in December, but at Rodgers’ arraignment Oct. 23, U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Cassady said he would entertain any requests for continuation.
This post was updated Dec. 10 to correct the relationships of people identified.