Authorities in Oklahoma City have issued charges against three men after a federal grand jury approved an indictment against them. Investigators described allegations against the men that involved finding abandoned accounts for the receipt of royalties from mineral extraction. Normally, the money intended for these accounts that lack contact information is sent to the state’s unclaimed property fund. The defendants, however, allegedly diverted these funds for their own enrichment.

The royalty diversion process

According to investigators, one of the men worked at a company that managed these oil and gas mineral rights accounts. He used his position to identify accounts without contacts that had also accrued hefty amounts of royalties. This typically happens when landowners die or those responsible for the land can no longer be found.

He and the other conspirators then reportedly forged a total of 15 fraudulent deeds for the specific properties that transferred mineral rights to business entities formed by the men. After filing the deeds in the appropriate counties, the information was routed to the oil and gas royalty management company so that it would authorize payment to the new contacts. Records appear to show that a total of $1.7 million was wired to these accounts.

Multiple federal charges

Federal law enforcement officials have charged two of the men with aggravated identity theft, money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The third man faces a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The stakes are high when defendants enter the federal-level criminal justice system. Congress has approved long sentences and high fines for people convicted of white collar crime. When confronted by this situation, people often seek the representation of a defense attorney knowledgeable about federal court procedures and financial systems.