The U.S. Justice Department says a former engineer for the oil giant BP has been arrested on charges of intentionally destroying evidence related to the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Authorities said in a statement that 50-year-old Kurt Mix from Texas was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice.
Investigators allege Mix deleted more than 300 telephone text messages about how much oil was flowing into the waters off the U.S. southern coast as BP struggled to cap the leak.
Mix is the first person charged in what the authorities say is a continuing investigation of those responsible for the worst offshore oil spill in the country’s history. An oil rig blast killed 11 workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was capped.
If convicted, Mix could could face up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
BP said Tuesday it is cooperating with the Justice Department and other official investigations. BP said it has clear policies requiring evidence in this case be preserved.