WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday the arrest of a former BP engineer on charges of knowingly destroying evidence requested by federal authorities investigating the biggest oil spill in the nation’s history.
Kurt Mix was arrested Tuesday on two charges of obstruction of justice for getting rid of evidence regarding the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
The accident poured 4.9 million barrels of crude into the sea and killed 11 workers.
Charges against Mix, a 50-year-old resident of Katy, Texas, were filed Tuesday in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Justice Department said in a communique.
If found guilty, Mix faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and fines of up to $250,000 for each charge.
Mix allegedly destroyed documents related to the amount of crude that was spilled as a result of the explosion, Attorney General Eric Holder said.
“The Deepwater Horizon Task Force is continuing its investigation into the explosion and will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history,” Holder said.
According to court documents and the arrest warrant, Mix worked for BP as a drilling and completions project engineer, and after the explosion he helped with efforts to determine the volume of the spill in order to plug the escaping oil flow.
BP sent “numerous notices” to Mix telling him to keep all the information related to the Macondo well, including text messages.
Nonetheless, around Oct. 4, 2010, when he learned that his electronic files would go to BP attorneys as part of the investigation, Mix allegedly deleted from his iPhone more than 200 text messages between him and a supervisor.
Those texts, some of which were recovered by forensic technicians, included sensitive information about BP’s fruitless efforts to contain the spill and in particular about the failed top kill operation to plug it.
Then in August 2011, Mix presumably deleted another series of 100 text messages with a BP contractor that he had worked with on tasks related to the oil spill. EFE