- Associated Press - Thursday, October 29, 2015

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The latest on the criminal charges brought against a Texas lawyer in connection with 2010 Gulf oil spill claims (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

A Texas attorney and four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to accusations of faking more than 40,000 damage claims after the BP oil spill in 2010.

A public defender says a sixth defendant will do the same later.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dowdy said afterward that federal investigators haven’t located the seventh defendant, Gregory Warren, of Lafayette, Louisiana.

An indictment unsealed Thursday charges each with 95 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft. Total maximum penalties include $23.7 million in fines and 709 years in prison.

An attorney for Mikal Watts, the Texas lawyer, say Watts and two employees, including Watts’ brother, are innocent.

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12:20 p.m.

Prosecutors say a Texas attorney, his brother and another employee of his law firm are among seven people accused of faking more than 40,000 damage claims after the BP oil spill in 2010.

U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis says the investigation began in 2011, two years before BP PLC sued Texas lawyer Mikal Watts and his San Antonio law firm, accusing them of “brazen fraud.”

The indictment unsealed Thursday in Gulfport, Mississippi, includes 95 counts of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Watts’ attorney, Robert McDuff, says people “down the line” clearly committed fraud, but Watts and his employees are innocent.

Other defendants are David Watts; employee Wynter Lee; Hector Eloy Guerra of Westlaco, Texas; Gregory Warren of Lafayette, Louisiana; Thi Houng Le of Pascagoula, Mississippi; and Le’s sister-in-law, Thi Hoang Nguyen.

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10 a.m.

A Texas lawyer is scheduled to appear in court on federal criminal charges stemming from litigation against BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Defense attorney Robert McDuff has confirmed that Watts is among the defendants in a sealed indictment and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday afternoon.

McDuff says he cannot discuss specific charges, but they’re related to allegations that Watts committed fraud or forgery when he claimed to represent 44,500 commercial fishing boat deckhands who were suing BP.

Watts said in a statement last week that he is not guilty of any crimes.

Watts and his law firm were sued in 2013 by BP. The company claimed Watts and the firm engaged in “brazen fraud.”

A judge put the lawsuit on hold while the criminal investigation unfolded.

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