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Oct. 9, 2009


(HOUSTON) – A criminal information charging three men for their roles in brokering the sale of petroleum products stolen from Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) has been unsealed following the guilty plea of the third defendant today, United States Attorney Tim Johnson and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents in Charge Jerry Robinette (San Antonio) and Robert Rutt (Houston) announced today. The charges are the result of an on-going investigation into the theft of Mexican petroleum products, particularly condensate, and the transport and sale of the petroleum product to companies in the United States.

The criminal information filed under seal in September 2009 was unsealed as to each defendant as each entered their plea of guilty to conspiring to receive and sell stolen goods. Arnold Maldonado, 45, of Edinburg, Texas, entered his guilty plea on Sept. 25, 2009, while Jonathan Dappen, 29, of McAllen, Texas, pleaded guilty on Oct. 2, 2009. Today, Stephen Pechenick, 78, of San Antonio, Texas, pleaded guilty. Each of the three defendants face up to five years imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines for their respective convictions.
In 2007, the Government of Mexico provided information to ICE alleging numerous companies and individuals were involved in the theft of petroleum products from the Mexican oil company PEMEX and the subsequent sale of the stolen petroleum in the United States. The ICE investigation involving agents from both the San Antonio and Houston offices found that various companies imported Mexican condensate stolen from PEMEX into the United States. The import companies received and coordinated the movement of semi-truck tankers loaded with stolen condensate from Mexico into the U.S. via a land border Port of Entry. The import companies, which directed the tanker trucks to deliver the petroleum to locations inside the Port of Brownsville, Texas, were paid by wire transfer to various accounts in a scheme that amounted to the sale of millions of dollars in stolen petroleum.

The ICE investigation, which was coordinated with Mexico, traced the receipt of the stolen petroleum to certain middlemen, who, in turn, brokered the sale of the stolen petroleum products to U.S. companies. Jonathan Dappen brokered transactions between U.S. and Mexican companies. Two of the U.S. companies identified as having received and coordinated the movement of the stolen petroleum were Y Oil and Gas through Arnold Maldonado, and Valley Fuels through Steve Pechenik. 

The U.S. companies paid the importers of the stolen Mexican petroleum and then stored the product until a sufficient quantity accumulated to load on a barge. As the stolen petroleum moved further from the border, other individuals became involved in the scheme, such as Donald Schroeder, 60, of Houston. Schroeder, the president of Trammo Petroleum, was the first to be charged as a result of this ongoing investigation and entered a plea of guilty on May 29, 2009, and is pending sentencing on Dec. 18, 2009.

United States District Judge Ewing Werlein accepted the guilty pleas of Maldonado, Dappen and Pechenick and has sent sentencing for Jan. 8, 2010, for Maldonado and Jan. 15, 2010, for Dappen. Pechenick is also set to be sentenced in January 2010.



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