Defendants in a felony mail fraud case implicating family members of Alabama’s top law enforcement officer will have to repay more than $225,000 to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility after signing plea agreements admitting their guilt Nov 22.
According to the agreements, the fraud involved a scheme in which the defendants forged documents indicating they worked on a Bayou la Batre shrimp boat while its productivity was limited by the BP oil spill in 2010.
In fact, none of the defendants were employed by the owner of the boat at the time of the oil spill, although one, Harvey Eugene Collier Jr., did work aboard the F/V Lady Charlotte for a 60-day period in 2008 and 2009. Harvey Collier is the brother of Alabama Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier, who was a state senator representing south Mobile County at the time of the oil spill and was involved in some of the recovery efforts. Harvey’s name was misreported in the original indictment as Harvey Eugene Collier, III.
Spencer Collier was not named in the indictment and after the charges were first publicized by Lagniappe last month, he received a statement of support from the Governor’s office.
The plea agreements indicate that Harvey Collier provided his co-defendants with forged and duplicated documentation resulting in fraudulent payments in amounts ranging from $33,000 for Tonya Collier, at the time Sec. Collier’s sister-in-law, to $44,500 for Harvey Collier. But also pleading guilty were Sec. Collier’s 24-year-old son Christopher Collier for the theft of $34,500 and Sec. Collier’s nephew Wayne Eric Collier Jr., who netted $30,000 in the scheme.
Another defendant, Michael Steiner, stole $43,532.75 with the fraudulent documents, while two others, Bobby Rogers and Simon Williams stole a combined $45,000, according to records.
The agreements explain how the defendants all submitted claims to the GCCF based on employment they reportedly lost onboard the Lady Charlotte. However, the signature of the boat’s owner, David Rodgers, was forged on all the employment verifications and “catch/share” sheets that purported to document the Lady Charlotte’s fishing activities were not consistent with the type actually used upon the boat.
Based on the fraudulent documents, checks were sent to all the defendants from the GCCF’s processing center in Dublin, Ohio to south Mobile County. Mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and fine of $250,000.
Chris Collier, Tonya Collier and Michael Steiner were released on bond but Harvey Collier, Wayne Collier and Bobby Rogers will remain in custody until sentencing in February. Simon Williams was committed to a 90-day drug treatment program before his sentencing.
Wayne Collier’s bond privileges were revoked when Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy testified he tested positive for methamphetamine Nov. 14, after he was ordered to remain drug free during a pretrial conference. Bobby Rogers and Harvey Collier were already inmates at the Mobile County Metro Jail awaiting other charges.
Harvey Collier has an extensive arrest record dating to at least 1996 on charges ranging from theft of property to first-degree burglary. In March, he was arrested 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 but his probation appears to have been revoked after the guilty plea for fraud.
Christopher Collier was arrested in April and charged with four counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. That case was bound over to a grand jury.
This story was updated Dec. 10 to correct the relationships of the people involved.