East Texans Busted In Huge Oilfield Crime Ring
POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009 - 5:40pm
UPDATED: Monday, June 21, 2010 - 5:28pm
Seventeen people have been indicted for stealing condensate from natural gas well sites in Rusk and Panola counties
EAST TEXAS - "We're getting clobbered in the oil field," said Texas Ranger Kenny Ray to members of the media last summer.
Ray along with other individuals were in East Texas to get the word out that there was an oil laundering system in the area.
"It has overwhelmed us and we're just trying to reach out and say 'we need help," said Joe K. Howard with Hunt Petroleum Corporation.
Little did they know at the time, the alleged thieves were "haulers" at various gas companies in the area.
After a lengthy investigation, Oklahoma based, Devon Energy, played a big role in busting one of the largest oilfield investigations in history.
So far, 17 people have been indicted for stealing condensate from natural gas well sites in East Texas. Condensate is a valuable natural gas liquid, and millions of dollars of the commodity was stolen. Devon Energy used remote cameras to capture the crimes on tape, and noticed the product was being taken from tanks, back in 2007.
Kent Chrisman, the Director for Global Security, with Devon Energy said, "This wasn't just some small time robberies, this was the salt water haulers to actually putting this product into the market. And it was a huge operation and millions of dollars in loss."
The crimes stretched to 7 Texas counties - including Panola and Rusk counties. So far, the grand jury returned 65 felony indictments and more could be handed out soon.
Here's the press release from the Panola County, Texas DA:
Texas Rangers and local law enforcement officers throughout East Texas today began executing felony indictments issued by grand juries in two counties. Those indicted are accused of stealing, or conspiring to steal, condensate from natural gas well sites in East Texas. Condensate is a valuable natural gas liquid that is produced in association with natural gas operations.
A Panola County grand jury handed down indictments charging 15 people for alleged participation in an organized crime ring in the East Texas oil field. The grand jury returned 65 felony indictments in the case. A Rusk County grand jury indicted two additional people for alleged oilfield theft. In total, 17 people have been indicted in the case.
Spanning seven Texas counties, the investigation is among the largest oilfield theft cases to date. The investigation found thieves have stolen several million dollars in product over a two-year period. Theft in the oil field also has been prevalent in North Texas, where criminals often steal the commodity and sell it for profit.
"This was really a collaborative effort," said Panola County Criminal District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson. "We worked with the natural gas industry and investigators throughout East Texas to indict this group. We think there may be more people involved, and we are working to narrow our investigation and bring this activity to a halt."
A multi-county law enforcement task force from Panola, Shelby, Nacogdoches, Rusk, Harrison, Smith and Gregg Counties made up of Texas Rangers, local sheriffs and local district attorneys' investigators conducted the investigation that led to the arrests. The task force was assisted by corporate security departments at Devon Energy and other natural gas companies operating in the area that fell victim to the crimes.
"Oilfield theft affects more than natural gas companies," said Kent Chrisman, Devon's director of global security. "It also affects landowners, royalty owners and taxpayers. We applaud the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement officers for their work on the case. We will continue to do what we can to assist them to bring oilfield thieves to justice."
"Losses due to oilfield field theft are suffered not only by the interest owner, workers in the energy industry and citizens in areas of Texas dependent upon the oil patch; rather the issue can affect our nation's security and global dependence on foreign oil thereby harming every American," said Rusk County Criminal District Attorney Micheal Jimerson. "I appreciate the efforts of the Texas Rangers, specifically Ranger Lt. Kenny Ray, Ranger Sergeant Brent Davis, Ranger Sergeant Ronny Griffith and Panola County Criminal District Attorney Investigator Kevin Jones in their diligent investigations of complex organized oil field theft."
"This is not the end of the road for this investigation," said Gregg County Criminal District Attorney Carl Dorrough. "Efforts to identify, arrest and prosecute individuals involved in this particular scheme or any other oilfield-related thefts will continue beyond these initial arrests."
"The investigation of this case has required a great deal of coordination between the Prosecutors in Gregg, Rusk and Panola County and law enforcement. This has really been a team effort and I appreciate the effort that District Attorney's Carl Dorrough and Michael Jimerson and all the officers put into this. This is an excellent example of industry and law enforcement working together," Davidson said.
Members of Oilfield Crime Ring Indicted in East Texas
-Roy Tatum, 47, of Beckville faces 21 counts, including one charge in Rusk County
-Jeremy Tullar, 24, of Gilmer faces one count;
- Jody Len Watts, 40, of Longview faces two counts, including one charge in Rusk County.
- Leon Allison, 37, of Carthage faces four counts;
- Alfred Brown, 49, of Carthage faces seven counts;
- Sampson Ewins Jr., 48, of Carthage faces one count;
- Ozell Holland Jr., 44, of Beckville faces one count;
- Enos Lee, 48, of Carthage faces six counts;
- Paul Edward Sharp, 36, of Longview faces one count;
- Juan Weatherton, 32, of Carthage faces one count;