Bakken oil scam sees Dana Yvonne Kent take plea deal
BY MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press
Friday, December 28, 2012
12/28/12 at 5:48 AM
BILLINGS, Mont. - A California woman faces a likely prison sentence after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors for her role in a scam to dupe investors into sinking money into fictitious oil and gas projects on Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation, her defense attorney said Thursday.
Dana Yvonne Kent of Santa Ana, Calif., has agreed to plead guilty to a single count of investment fraud by wire, documents show. In exchange, prosecutors said they would drop charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and investment fraud by mail.
An affidavit earlier submitted by an FBI agent said that beginning in 2009, dozens of people across the country invested about $673,000 into a drilling project being promoted by Kent and five co-defendants.
The remaining defendants, also California residents, refused offers of plea deals, according to filings from prosecutors.
Kent's attorney, Carl Jensen, said Thursday she probably faces about a year-and-a-half in prison based on federal sentencing guidelines.
But U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon in Great Falls will have the final say. He scheduled a change of plea hearing for Jan. 2.
"Obviously the judge can do whatever he wants to do," Jensen said.
The fictitious projects promoted by the defendants were linked to the booming Bakken oil patch of eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Investors were promised lucrative returns, with initial investments to be repaid within six months and then regular monthly checks thereafter.
To make the story more believable, the defendants presented a copy of a 2006 letter from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approving three oil and gas leases on land owned by a Fort Peck tribal member.
The northeastern Montana reservation sits atop the Bakken, which has become one of the richest oil producing regions in the U.S.
Authorities said the two companies created by the defendants never really pursued the oil and gas project, which was also said to include a refinery, pipelines and other infrastructure.
Original Print Headline: Woman takes oil fraud plea deal