Written by Al Stover
Three California residents were sentenced at a federal court session in Great Falls Aug. 26 before District Judge Sam Haddon.
Steven Carpenter, 56, Suzette Gal, 55, and Andras Gal, 22, had been found guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and two counts of investment and wire fraud, back in May.
Carpenter was sentenced to 188 months in prison while Andras Gal was sentenced to 72 months. Suzette Gal will serve 120 months, with an additional six months after being found guilty at a second trial for contempt of court.
All three defendants have to pay a special assessment of $300 along with a restitution of $675,406.62.
According to the FBI’s website, the defendants, along with Kristain Gal, 29, and Mike Alfonso, 54, had worked together to solicit funds from people by persuading them to invest in fabricated oil and gas investment opportunities on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Although the group originally had legitimate oil and gas leases, the rights had been terminated in October 2007 after they had failed to make the required lease payments. The group also never made any payment to establish a gas or oil venture on the reservation.
The defendants persuaded investors into paying in excess of half a million dollars into the false investments. The case involved over 50 investors.
“Today’s sentencing of Steven Carpenter, Suzette Gal and Andras Gal sends an important message to professional telemarketers who prey on the country’s elderly,” U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter stated. “The only way to stem the tide of these predators is to let them know that when they are caught, the consequences will be significant.”
Cotter also praised the efforts of both the investigation and the case. The investigation had been conducted by agents and auditors working with the U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Interior and the FBI. The case had been tried by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carl Rostad and Ryan Weldon.
Once Carpenter and Suzette Gal are released from prison, they will be on a three-year supervised release. Andras Gal will be on a two-year supervised release.