Sept. 18–Three of five oilfield workers charged with selling nearly $2 million in oil stolen from companies drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale have agreed to plead guilty.
Ricardo Sanchez Jr. became the latest to enter a guilty plea Tuesday to theft and wire fraud. He admitted that he and his co-defendants used an entity called Andra Energy LLC, which purported to be in the business of reclaiming oil from wastewater used in fracking, to hide the thefts of oil that they sold for more than $1.7 million.
Court records said between September 2013 and February 2016, the defendants stole from tank batteries of at least three energy companies that are only identified as Victims 1, 2 and 4.
Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra was to take up a motion to sever the defendants’ case Tuesday morning, but it was withdrawn, as the judge was informed that Sanchez and Ricardo Guevara had agreed to plead guilty, and that Romeo Garcia Jr. pleaded guilty on Aug. 20. Guevara is to formally enter his plea in the coming week.
The alleged ringleader, Luis Valencia, and his nephew, Mauricio Valencia, remain the lone defendants awaiting a trial that is tentatively set for Oct. 1. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Sanchez’s plea deal said the group of oilfield services workers formed Andra after Garcia met with Luis Valencia and others about the potential money to be made from stolen oil. The plea deal said the group stole primarily from oilfield tank batteries of Victim 1, but that Andra also received stolen oil from employees of Victim 4. Later, they stole from Victim 2, court records said.
“The defendants would attempt to hide the illegal nature of Andra’s business by creating and submitting false paperwork to the Railroad Commission of Texas, to give the appearance that the oil had been legally obtained,” court records said.
The records said Luis Valencia directed others to create false “run tickets” to reflect that the oil sold by Andra was purchased legitimately. Money was then wired to his co-defendants and to others who had helped steal oil.
All the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. — firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @gmaninfedland
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