Written by Devon Boen
The Fort Peck Indian Reservation is now home to an elaborate drilling scam allegedly enacted by six California residents over a period of several years.
According to The Billings Gazette, the defendants, who were arrested on Friday, Aug. 24, in California, promised a slew of investors a stake in an oil and gas project on the reservation.
Unfortunately for the investors, the companies created, Domestic Energy Solutions and U.S. Oil and Gas LLC, allegedly never actually pursued completing the project.
Collectively, investors provided $673,000 toward the cause.
Arraigned in federal court on Tuesday, Sept. 11, on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, investment fraud by mail and investment fraud by wire were Mike Campa, 54; Suzette Gal, 54; Andras Gal, 22; and Krisztian Zoltan George Gal, 29. All are residents of Yorba Linda,
Calif., and all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, William Carpenter and Dana Yvonne Kent were also implicated in the scam.
In order to gain so much trust in the project, the defendants used a 2006 letter from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs that stated the project had approval for three different oil and gas leases on land owned by a Fort Peck tribal resident.
It was discovered the leases were cancelled for non-payment in 2007, negating any backing they may have given to project.
The Billings Gazette said the six alleged perpetrators of the scam would also gain investors by promising a quick return, stating they would have their initial amount back in six months and would then receive regular monthly payments.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Campa and Carpenter have previous federal fraud convictions.
If convicted of the charges, they each face a possible penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit fraud and 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release for each of the investment fraud charges.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Interior - Office of Inspector General.