People all over town thought Elwood P. Dowd was crazy because he claimed to have a friend named Harvey. Having a friend named Harvey is not much of a stretch, but this Harvey was a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit, and that did strain credulity.
People all over Texas including some in law enforcement wondered about Mikal Watts, too, when he claimed to have more than 44,000 clients seeking compensation for damages caused by the BP oil spill in 2010. It wasn't that he had so many clients for one case, though that was noteworthy. It was just that many of them appear to have died before the spill, or had Social Security numbers that did not belong to them, or were unaware that Watts was purporting to represent them.
Imaginary friends are one thing, imaginary clients something else. The former are relatively harmless. The latter can be viewed as components of massive fraud.
There's crazy and there's crooked, and they're not the same thing.
Vietnamese fisherman Dung Nguyen says he was one of Watts's imaginary clients – one of the live ones, with his own Social Security number. But he'd never sought nor secured the attorney's services. Nevertheless, his name was on Watts’s client list.
Nguyen and other imaginary clients filed suit against Watts in San Antonio District Court, accusing him of fraud.
BP also filed suit against Watts, charging that the Social Security numbers of half of his plaintiffs were fraudulent.
Federal agents raided Watt’s office looking for evidence of identity theft.
Now a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Mississippi has indicted Watts.
“After years of waiting, I will now finally have my day in court,” Watts declares with bravado. “I look forward to a speedy trial and the opportunity to prove to a jury that I am not guilty of any crimes.”
Will Watts's imaginary clients testify on his behalf? Will the friends he's cultivated in high places make themselves invisible?