- Written by John Plestina
Adam Alonzo (left) and Hilario Velasquez.
A jury convicted Hilario Velasquez, 34, of Williston, N.D., and Riverside, Calif., of two drug charges in 15th District Court, Friday, Aug. 1.
Velasquez was found guilty of criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute [methamphetamine], a felony, and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.
A pre-sentence investigation and report is expected to take two to three months. Sentencing will follow.
Velasquez was arrested with Adam Alonzo, 31, of Williston, N.D., and San Bernardino, Calif.
Alonzo is charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute [methamphetamine]. He was also charged with several motor vehicle violations, including driving after his license was suspended or revoked in California.
A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 16, but District Court sources said a plea agreement is a possibility.
Alonzo and Velasquez have been lodged in the Roosevelt County Jail since Sept. 25, 2013.
The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office reported that shortly after midnight, Sept. 25, 2013, a deputy observed a black Saturn Ion traveling as much as 15 mph under the posted speed limit and weaving on U.S. Hwy. 2 eastbound, between Bain-ville and Culbertson. The car crossed the center line three times and then stopped. The driver, later identified as Alonzo, was unable to provide a driver’s license or any identification, vehicle registration or insurance card, and told a deputy his name was Adam Lucatero. Lucatero is reported to be his middle name.
The deputy stated in a written report that there was an odor of marijuana in the car.
The RCSO identified a front seat passenger as Briann Burshia. Velazquez was seated on the back seat.
Burshia claimed she met the men in Poplar a short time earlier. She was not arrested.
The deputy reported that both men were uncooperative, resulting in the officer removing his duty weapon from his holster. The deputy also had to threaten Velasquez with pepper spray.
The deputy wrote in his report that Velazquez told him he is on felony probation in California and was not supposed to leave that state.
Alonzo has an extraditable parole warrant out of North Dakota, for another drug case.
Judge David Cybulski granted a search warrant for it, where authorities found a substantial amount of syringes [several used], other drug paraphernalia, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, digital scale, 10 cell phones and $991 in cash.
- Written by John Plestina
A developer from the Twin Cities representing an unnamed major retailer has expressed interest in a 25-acre site on U.S. Hwy. 2, east of the Homestead Inn that the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture has owned since the 1970s.
Drew Johnson, representing Oppidan Investment Company, a development company in Minnetonka, Minn., told the chamber board, Tuesday, Aug. 5, that his company is asking the chamber to either donate the land or sell the site for $1. Oppidan would then build a 26,000-square-foot building for what Johnson called a general merchandise retailer and lease the building to that company.
The proposal includes an 80-stall parking lot.
The identity of that retailer remains shrouded in secrecy.
The chamber board will meet soon to consider the proposal.
Oppidan has developed general merchandise retail, large chain grocery stores and national chain fast food restaurant sites in several Midwestern states, including both Dakotas, numerous developments in Williston, N.D., and in Glendive and Sidney.
The site is smaller than most Walmart, K-Mart or Target locations. The proposed 26,000-square-foot building would be slightly larger than the 25,000- square-foot Alco store in Wolf Point.
“Overall, we’re excited about the community,” Johnson said.
“They [Oppidan] have done grocery store developments in the Bakken [oilfield] and Glendive,” he said.
Johnson said the project would cost $4 to 4.5 million. He also said the retailer is expected to do between $4 and $7 million in sales annually and produce substantial tax revenue.
Great Northern Development Corporation is involved in the project and GNDC was represented at the chamber meeting.
Johnson said if the chamber board votes to accept the proposal and move forward with the project, construction is likely to begin during spring 2015 with a late fall 2015 opening.
Oppidan, founded in 1991, is a national property development firm offering numerous real estate services, including construction, project management, asset management and brokerage services. Oppidan has successfully developed more than 300 projects valued at more than $1.5 billion in 26 states.
National retailers on Oppidan’s online client list include Bed, Bath and Beyond; Best Buy; Dollar Tree; J.C. Penney; Kohls; Lowe’s; Michael’s; Office Max; Old Navy; Radio Shack; Shopko; Target and Walgreens.
In addition, the client list includes several national fast food and restaurant chains, Wells Fargo Bank and other types of businesses.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks adopted Stage I fire restrictions for all FWP fishing access sites, state parks and wildlife management areas throughout Roosevelt County, Thursday, July 31.
Restrictions are also in place in Valley County and include the Glasgow area.
Until further notice, the following activities are prohibited: building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire and smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
Exemptions include persons with written permits specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act, individuals using devices solely fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and off and persons conducting activities in designated areas where the activity is specifically authorized by written posted notice. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers and members of organized rescue and firefighting forces are also exempted in the performance of an official duty. All land within a city boundary is exempted.
Camp fires will be allowed in established steel fire grates only if posted.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Jonathan Lee Oliver, a 41-year-old Missoula resident, was sentenced to 100 months in prison for diverting money he received from customers in eastern Montana, North Dakota and other places, and using the money to buy himself a house, several vehicles, two jet skis, a luxury motor home, a diamond engagement ring and various other items.
On Feb. 25, Oliver pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and structuring.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Timothy J. Racicot, the government told the court that in the fall of 2010, Oliver rented an office and warehouse space and began conducting business under the fake name of Jon Walker. He solicited payments from several victims for the construction of steel buildings, primarily in eastern Montana and North Dakota, including in the area known as the Bakken.
He entered into contracts with the victims, received millions of dollars in advance payments, and completed only one steel building. Rather than build the structures, Oliver used a substantial amount of the victims’ money to buy personal assets, including a down payment on a house, several vehicles, two jet skis, a luxury motor home, a diamond engagement ring and various other items.
On multiple occasions, Oliver directed his employees to tell victims that a certain phase of the construction of their building was completed in order to induce the victims to send additional installment payments, when in fact the phase had not been completed and Oliver’s business lacked the materials necessary to complete the project because so many of the funds had been diverted by Oliver for personal expenditures.
The counts that Oliver pleaded to involve money he took from a victim totaling over $130,000 and Oliver’s purchase of a brand-new Subaru Tribeca Limited for $33,950. Oliver also pleaded guilty to withdrawing $9,950 in cash from the bank to avoid the bank’s currency transaction reporting requirements.
“The Bakken is a ripe environment for fraudulent activity and Jonathan Lee Oliver saw that. Project Safe Bakken has and will continue to prosecute fraudsters like Oliver, whose greed directly harms citizens seeking to invest and grow their money in legitimate business ventures,” said Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana.
At sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy entered a money judgment against Oliver in the amount of $6,468,186.33. The money judgment represents the forfeiture of substitute assets and corresponds to Oliver’s ill-gotten gains. The judge also sentenced Oliver to three years supervised release following his prison sentence.
The prosecution was part of Project Safe Bakken, a cooperative effort between federal and state prosecutors and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in Montana and North Dakota. The investigation in this case was conducted by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.
- Written by John Plestina
The developer of the former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point envisions an environmental cleanup of the site and construction of a new refinery, built to current standards that could accommodate 20,000 barrels daily, and a rail terminal, both serving the Bakken Oil Field.
The long abandoned Kenco Refinery opened in 1963 and closed in 1985. The site, located about seven miles east of Wolf Point on Montana Hwy. 13, is about one half mile south of U.S. Hwy 2.
Ken Elliott and Steve Houston, doing business locally as Wolf Point Green LLC, purchased the 110-acre former Kenco site in December 2011 with plans to build what Elliott called a “clean-energy campus,” that would include a new refinery and rail terminal within about four years, possibly less. Longer range plans include a wind farm and solar and geothermal energy production that would partially power the refinery. There are also plans to build a hotel and greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site.
Elliott said he envisions oil industry development in Montana to increase beyond current development near the North Dakota border that includes development that has been going on in the Culbertson and Bainville areas.
“There are 15 crude oil terminals in North Dakota. We’ve got none in Montana,” Elliott said of the need to build a rail terminal.
“One of the things the Burlington Northern is interested in working with us is the risk of fires and we’re out here, not in a community,” Elliott said.
A refinery currently under construction near Dickinson, N.D., would be the first since the 1970s. It is slated to open before a refinery in the Wolf Point area could be completed.
Currently, much of the Bakken Oilfield’s crude oil is shipped south for refining.
Elliott said a refinery in eastern Montana would be a source of producing diesel fuel, which is needed by farmers and ranchers.
Known as the Kenco Refinery, both Kenco Refining Inc., and Tesoro Petroleum Corp., operated the former refinery during the 22 years it was in operation. Ken Luff, now of Denver, Colo., was the principal owner.
That original refinery was on between 25 and 30 acres of the 110-acre property.
The remains of a crude oil furnace that vented to the atmosphere, other now unusable equipment in various states of disrepair, the remains of Kenco’s office building, several tanks and remains of tanks, and acres of oil and diesel fuel saturated soil remain at the site. In some places, oil has soaked several feet beneath the surface, some not visible, while there are oily patches on the ground in some locations.
“There have been 11 [environmental] studies on this site,” Elliott said.
“We’ve got a heck of an environmental cleanup,” Elliott said.
A cleanup of an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil is estimated by a recent study to cost about $30 million. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost at $25 million in 2008.
The EPA declared the property a Superfund cleanup site in 1997. It is a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.
“They’ve had one environmental issue after another here,” Elliott said.
Wolf Point Green is working with the Wolf Point headquartered Great Northern Development Corporation and the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition. The two organizations are administering the Clean Up Revolving Loan Fund and Assessment Grant for hazardous substance cleanup.
“Martin [DeWitt, executive director of GNDC] and his group reached out to us in 2011. He suggested we take a look at the refinery,” Elliott said.
“I met with the EPA a couple of weeks ago in Denver,” he said.
“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 jobs that will be created with this,” he said.
He said a million barrels of oil a day reflects about 50 percent of what is in the ground.
“Everybody in this part of the state knows what it’s like in North Dakota. It’s a disaster,” Elliott said.
He said eastern Montana could get ahead of it with new infrastructure, housing and schools.
“We work all over the country. The county commissioners here have been great,” Elliott said. “The tribe has been very good working with us.”
Elliott said Wolf Point Green has the support of GNDC, the Fort Peck Tribes and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Tester chairs the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.