A landman allegedly used forgery to gain control of oil and gas leases in Washington County, Pennsylvania and billed companies he was working for more than a million dollars.
William J. Ray, 29, of Monroeville, PA, was charged Wednesday in federal court with one count of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud.
He allegedly received checks of $250,958 and $452,095 from Range Resources, of Fort Worth, Texas, and of $381,051 from Houston-based Buffalo Royalties for leases secured without proper consent from the property owners.
The alleged fraud occurred in 2011 and 2012.
The area Ray was working in — Washington County, Pa. — is in the midst of an oil and gas boom and has become one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.
The county is on the Marcellus shale deposits, a natural gas formation that runs through parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.
There are now about 300 producing wells in Washington County; about 500 more wells are either drilled or planned.
A federal jury indicted Ray’s business partner last month.
Derek A. Candelore, 33, of Jeannette, PA was also charged with mail and wire fraud.
He allegedly used ‘forged signatures to transfer mineral rights to fake companies he created, then filed deeds with the Washington County Recorder of Deeds Offices to back up his claims,’ the Pittsburg Post Gazette said.
Candelore then sold the lease rights to Range Resources and other companies, according to the indictment.
Shale usually holds natural dry gas.
But Washington County in southwest Pennsylvania sits on a wet gas reservoir rich in natural gas liquids such as ethane, butane and propane.