Former High School Classmates Charged In 34 Count Indictment For Defrauding Corporation Of $7.2 Million
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that a pair of former high school classmates have been indicted for allegedly defrauding a multinational energy development corporation of approximately $7.2 million.
Forrest Wright, 40, and Nathan Keays, 40, both of Anchorage, have been named in a 34 count indictment charging them with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
From January 2012 to December 2019, Wright was employed by a multinational energy development corporation as a Senior Drilling and Wells Planner, responsible for ordering materials and labor for the drilling and wells program. Wright had authority to approve orders up to $1 million and was trusted to endorse and recommend vendor suppliers for approval. Keays is employed as a police officer with Anchorage Police Department and owns a personal business, Eco Edge Armoring, LLC (Eco Edge).
The indictment alleges beginning in February 2019, Wright devised a scheme to defraud his employer, a multinational energy development corporation, of monies. In furtherance of the scheme and using his trusted position within the company, Wright authored emails containing technical data and industry specific content in order to present Eco Edge as a legitimate oil and gas business with the purpose of obtaining an approved vendor status with his employer. Wright sent the emails from his personal email account to Keays with instructions to send the emails to Wright’s business email account. Wright then used the correspondence as a basis to obtain approved vendor status for Eco Edge. Once Eco Edge received an approved vendor status, Keays submitted fraudulent invoices in the amount of $3,251,383 for materials that did not exist and labor that was not performed. Wright used his trusted position within the company to instruct other employees to approve payment of the invoices, falsely representing the materials were accounted for and that work had been performed. Electronic payments in the amount of $3,087,720 were made from the victim business to Eco Edge’s business banking account. Keays then paid a kickback to Spectrum Consulting Business, a business wholly owned by Wright. Wright and Keays used the proceeds of the scheme on personal expenses, real estate and supporting their ongoing purported business operations.
The indictment further alleges that also beginning in February 2019 and continuing through December 2019, Wright, independent of Keays, devised another similar scheme by manufacturing and representing a business, “DB Oilfied Support Services” (DB Oilfield) as a legitimate oil and gas company, with the purpose of obtaining an approved vendor status with his employer. Wright furthered the perception of a legitimate oil and gas industry business by hiring a contractor to create a website for the business and creating a business email account for DB Oilfield. Wright then recommended DB Oilfield be approved as a vendor by his employer. Once DB Oilfield was approved as a vendor, Wright then authored and sent emails from the DB Oilfield email account to his official business email account, and used the correspondences to justify contract awards to DB Oilfield. Wright then caused fraudulent invoices in excess of $4.1 million for materials that did not exist to be submitted to Victim Business. Wright used his trusted position within the company to instruct other employees to approve payment of the invoices, falsely representing the materials were accounted for when the materials did not exist. Electronic payments in the amount of $4,148,000 were made from the victim business to the DB Oilfield business banking account. Wright then caused monies from the DB Oilfield business banking account to be deposited into the Spectrum Consulting Services business banking account. Wright purportedly used the proceeds on personal expenses and real estate property.
If convicted, Wright and Keays each face up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Under federal sentencing statutes, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charisse Arce.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.