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A 77-year-old North Texas man was arrested last Wednesday on charges connected to an alleged oil and gas Ponzi scheme.

According to a statement released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, James VanBlaricum, from Colleyville, was arrested for a federal criminal complaint charging him with mail fraud.

According to the complaint, VanBlaricum was the registered agent and sole incorporator of Signal Oil and Gas Company (SOG), a company he founded in 2000.

The investigation began when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was contacted by the Texas State Securities Board after the board began receiving complaints about various programs VanBlaricum promoted and alleged misrepresentations made by SOG salespeople.

One of several oil and gas investment programs offered for purchase to SOG investors was the company’s Land Lease Program (LLP).

One of the main complaints related to SOG was a “lack of investment payments,” the agency said.

ICE said an investigation found that, from January 2006 through January 2009, 53 victims of a mail fraud scheme involving SOG’s LLP were identified with investments totaling $2,633,090.

ICE said that an analysis showed that about $2 million of LLP investor funds were deposited into SOG bank accounts along with comingled funds from other sources.

The analysis also allegedly revealed that funds deposited into the bank accounts had not been used for purposes described in prospectuses and “appear to have been misused by SOG and VanBlaricum.”

“In fact, more than one-half of investor funds went to employee payroll and day trading,” ICE said.

Investigators also claim that SOG used bank accounts where deposits from newer investors were kept to make dividend payments to older investors who participated in programs that preceded the LLP.

The agency said that those payments “are highly indicative of a Ponzi scheme where older investors are paid with newer investor money.”

ICE added that “many of the victims” in VanBlaricum’s LLP program invested at the recommendation of several financial consultants.

The maximum statutory penalty for the charged offense, mail fraud, is 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas A. Allen, Northern District of Texas, is in charge of the prosecution.