Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy will face a trial for one charge of felony racketeering and 20 counts of using false pretenses related to its land leasing practices in 2010.

A judge ruled Tuesday that the company will go to trial for allegedly defrauding private landowners in Oklahoma during oil and gas leasing sales in 2010, Reuters said.

The racketeering charge carries a fine of up to $100,000. The 20 counts of using false pretenses carry fines of up to $10,000 per count or triple the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

Chesapeake allegedly ordered its leasing agents to offer signing bonuses to private landowners in order to lock up land positions in Oklahoma.

When Chesapeake’s competitors slowed their land acquisition down Chesapeake’s agents allegedly canceled more than 800 of its own deals.

Chesapeake claimed mortgages on the properties would not allow it to honor the deals after initially telling the owners the mortgages would not pose problems.

The trial date has not been set yet.

The charges were first brought by state attorney general Bill Schuette in June.

Chesapeake said it will fight the charges.

“We continue to believe the attorney general is attempting to criminalize basic contract disputes,” Chesapeake spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said.

Ex-Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon, who left the company in 2011, denied any wrongdoing.

Chesapeake will also go on trial for antitrust charges in Michigan for allegedly colluding with Canada-based Encana to rig bids in a 2010 state land auction.

Encana reached a settlement with the state attorney’s office.

Chesapeake has denied any wrongdoing.


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