Articles Posted in Oil and Gas Claims

Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced plans to stop oil and gas pipelines from being able to structure themselves as Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) in order to get an income tax allowance for rates that are cost-of-service. Under the existing model, MLP customers pay a price that is regulated, part of which takes care of corporate tax charges.

MLPs aren’t required to pay corporate taxes since they pass through entities that distribute pre-tax earnings to unit holders. The latter are the ones that pay the taxes.

Any new rule related to this matter would likely not go into effect until 2020. Still, the government agency’s news affected trading on a number of MLPs, including the Alerian MLP ETF (exchange traded fund), Energy Transfer Partners, TC PipeLines, Williams Partners, Crossamerica Partners, and several others.

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Valor Capital Asset Management LLC and its owner, Texas-based investment adviser Robert Mark Magee, have settled US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of defrauding investors by engaging in cherry picking. As part of the settlement, Magee is banned from the securities industry and will pay over $715K.

The SEC contends that while trading securities in the firm’s omnibus account, Magee would wait to allocate the trades until after watching their performances throughout the day. He would then allocate a disproportionate amount of the more profitable trades to his accounts while sending the trades that were not profitable to his clients. This allowed him to profit at cost to clients. The SEC believes that his ill-gotten gains from cherry picking was over $505K.

For example, notes the SEC, the way in which Magee traded and allocated El Pollo Loco Holdings is “representative” of how he allegedly engaged in cherry picking. For five trading days in a row, trades in LOCO that were profitable went to his own account. When the price went down on the sixth day, he allocated the shares to six Valor client accounts instead of selling the shares at a loss.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Ameratex Energy, Inc., Lewis Oil Company, Lewis Oil Corp., their CEO Thomas Lewis, and ex-Ameratex President William Fort over their alleged involvement in an $11.7M Texas oil and gas offering fraud. The companies are based in Plano, Texas.

According to the regulator, the companies and the two men sold unregistered securities to more than 150 investors while making misleading statements about how the proceeds would be used. They also allegedly provided false information regarding prospect wells and sales commissions, as well as provided “false guarantees” regarding the lending out and mingling of funds.

The securities that they offered were not registered with the SEC. The individuals selling the investments were not licensed brokers or associated with brokers that were registered.

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State Regulator Orders Cessation of $4M Oil and Gas Offering
In an Emergency Cease and Desist Order, the Texas Securities Commissioner has ordered Parker R. Hallam and Jason A. Gilbert, two Dallas residents, to stop their efforts to raise $4.4M in an oil and gas offering. The two men are accused of fraud.

Hallam and Gilbert have been offering investors interest in a well project that would be based in Kansas. They reportedly intend to take $1M of investor funds as a management fee payment to SourceRock Energy Phoenix Prospect LP, which is the company that they do business as. Meantime, the rest of the funds would go toward leasing and building the well field. The two men have not, however, told investors that drilling costs are estimated to be at just around $750K.

Hallam also is accused of failing to tell investors that in 2016, the US Securities and Exchange Commission sued him and others over their alleged involvement in an $80M oil and gas fraud. Also, according to the Texas securities regulator, Gilbert failed to disclose that the Internal Revenue Service previously filed $548K in tax liens against him. The government agency also filed liens against Hallam, who has yet to pay nearly $143K of what he owes.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel has ruled that J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons LLC must pay claimants Troy and Elizabeth Benitone $569K. Also known as Hilliard Lyons, the wealth investment firm is accused of overconcentrating the Benitones’ accounts in Breitburn Energy Partners stock.

The claimants, in their oil and gas fraud case, alleged breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation and omission, common law fraud, breach of contract, and negligence supervision. The Benitones contend that Hilliard Lyons and its registered representative sold all of the claimants’ blue chip stocks, investing the money that was in their joint account and in Troy’s IRA in Breitburn. They lost $350K, with statutory damages at 10% on the purchase cost at $441K, from being overconcentrated in Breitburn.

The Benitones believe that it was the lack of diversification in their investments that put them at high risk of loss, especially as they had conservative investment goals and could not handle much risk at all. Also, Hilliard Lyons was the underwriter for the Breitburn Energy Partners stock.

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Financial Adviser Who Bilked Athletes, Including Mike Tyson, is Sentenced
Former SFX Financial Advisory Management Enterprises financial advisor Brian Ourand is sentenced to thirty years behind bars after he bilked a number of professional athletes, including former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, ex-NBA basketball players Glen Rice and Dikembe Mutombo, and others. Ourand must also pay back $1M of what he stole.

Not only is he accused of forging the pro athletes’ signatures on checks that he cashed but also of taking credit cards out against these clients’ accounts to cover his own spending, including restaurants, clothing, and other bills. SFX fired him in 2011.

In 2015, Ourand was charged with wire fraud, federal mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges. He pleaded guilty to one criminal count of wire fraud.

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William Alexander Swell and his 7S Oil & Gas, which is a Texas-based oil and gas company, will pay $750K for allegedly misleading investors about commissions and administrative costs and for misappropriating a significant amount of their money. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the oil and gas company and its CEO raised nearly $7M from at least 70 investors in the US via unregistered offerings in oil and gas projects. Securities were sold to investors as units in eight of these joint venture projects. All of the projects were based in Texas.

In its complaint, the regulator accused Sewell and 7S of bringing in investors through sales agents and YouTube videos, one of which guaranteed “some type of return.” Meantime, offering documents in the alleged Texas securities fraud purportedly stated that no more than 10% of investor funds would go toward marketing costs, commissions, and salaries, while 85% would be used on oil and gas operations.

Instead, the SEC is claiming, sales agents received up to 35% in commissions from investor proceeds while only 57% maximum of investor money went to the wells. Sewell and 7S are accused of using over $90K of investor funds on entertainment bills, his children’s school tuition, and other personal expenditures. “Sham ‘royalty payments’” were allegedly issued to some investors to make it appear as if they were getting a return on their investments.

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In the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Petroforce Energy LLC and its founder William Veasey have consented to pay almost $300K to resolve charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in an oil-and-gas offering fraud. The Austin-based company and Veasy raised close to $3.9M from about 80 investors in four allegedly fraudulent offerings. Some investors backed more than one offering.

According to the regulator’s complaint, Veasey and Petroforce gave materials to investors that included misleading and false statements regarding the investments. These inaccurate statements allegedly misrepresented certain operational issues that impacted an earlier offering, overstated the wells’ profitability, and understated certain expenses. Other key information, including tax benefits involving the offerings, were also allegedly misrepresented.

The Commission is accusing two Petroforce sales agents of acting as unregistered brokers in the oil and gas offering fraud. Javier Avarado and Ivan Turrentine, along with Veasey, offered and sold limited partnership and joint venture interests to investors in Petroforce securities. All of them made money from the sales.

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Oil Well Company and Founders Accused In $2.4M Offering Fraud
The SEC has filed offering fraud-related charges against Kentucky-Tennessee 50 Wells/400 BBLPD Block, Limited Partnership, its founders, and three members of its sales team over a $2.4M offering fraud. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s complaint, the oil well company fraudulently offered and sold unregistered securities to investors through a boiler room operation. They raised about $2.4M from 41 investors.

Carol J. Wayland and her son John C. Mueller founded K-T 50 Wells. They are accused of misappropriating investor funds for purposes not disclosed in the private placement memorandum, including taking more than $871K for their own expenses and making Ponzi payments to some investors.

Real Estate Agent Allegedly Sold Unregistered Securities as Part of Brother’s Ponzi Scam
Cheryl L. Jones is accused of defrauding investors by helping her brother, Mark Jones, recruit investors for his Ponzi scam. The Commission contends that Jones brought in associates and friends to buy unregistered promissory notes and personal guarantees that her brother was involved in.

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Two investment promoters are accused of running an advance fee scheme from what they claimed was a Dallas-based investment advisory firm. According to an Emergency Cease and Desist Order entered by the Texas Securities Commission, the Mark Diaz and Raymond Hill offered to buy investors’ stock under the condition that those selling would have to cover transaction costs. The two men promoted their alleged Texas-based securities fraud through social media, bogus websites, forged documents, and supposed IRS affiliations.

Two websites they set up had names similar to Cain Capital LLC, which is a firm that is actually registered with the SEC. According to the Texas regulator, one of the bogus websites directs visitors to a regulator filing that the real Cain Capital submitted to the SEC, as well as to that firm’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

Both sites and the social media accounts are not connected to Cain Capital in anyway. The two men are accused of sending unsolicited email that included documents with Cain Capital’s name in the letterhead to prospective investors.

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