- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The former FBI chief appointed to investigate the BP oil spill claims process is seeking the return of nearly $240,000 from an Alabama man and his maritime business.

Louis Freeh, in a federal court filing this week, says the man claimed to have made the bulk of his 2009 income for himself and his business from shrimping - revenue that was shut off by the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Freeh contends most of the 2009 revenue came not from seafood harvesting, but from marine debris cleanup work, meaning the man wasn’t entitled to money for lost seafood sales.

Freeh says the federal court in New Orleans should order Jay Zirlott of Theodore and his business to repay $239,519 to the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center.

Zirlott did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Freeh’s filing says lawyers representing Zirlott and his business, Capt Jay LLC, in the claims process have withdrawn from representing him and returned more than $43,000 in fees to the claims center.

Evidence cited by Freeh in the Tuesday filing includes a February 2009 newspaper article detailing the work of a marine debris company contracted by Texas officials to clean up debris from Hurricane Ike.

“The article included a photo of Zirlott reviewing locations of Hurricane Ike debris using sonar equipment,” Freeh’s filing states, adding that the article also quoted Zirlott about the work.

The filing goes on to detail interviews with people who said Zirlott did marine debris work for a company near his home in Theodore; and accounting records indicating 2009 income from sources other than seafood sales.

BP spokesman Geoff Morrell issued a statement Wednesday saying that Freeh’s motion “makes clear that claimants should return settlement funds to which they are not legally entitled and that the Court has the power to and should enforce the return of such payments as a matter of fairness and equity.”

Freeh was appointed in 2013 to examine claims arising from the spill of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico following the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig.

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