Lancaster County Oil & Gas Company Officers Charged with Bank Fraud
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Jeffrey Lyons, 58, of Lancaster, PA, Karen Connelly, 65, of Manheim, PA, and Judith Avilez, 58, of Elizabethtown, PA were all charged with bank fraud for their roles in defrauding Fulton Bank. Lyons and Connelly were charged by Information and Avilez was charged by Indictment.
The charging documents allege that between 2003 through May 15, 2018, Lyons, the former CEO of Worley & Obetz, and Worley & Obetz’s two controllers, Connelly and Avilez, defrauded Fulton Bank by fraudulently inflating Worley & Obetz’s revenue on its financial statements. Worley & Obetz was an oil and gas company in Manheim, PA, that provided home heating oil, gas, and propane to its customers. As a result of these and other alleged financial improprieties, the company has shut down and all employees lost their jobs.
To perpetuate the fraud, Connelly and Avilez created fraudulent Worley and Obetz financial statements to make the company appear to the bank that it had more revenue and accounts receivable than it did. Connelly was the Worley & Obetz controller from 2000 until she retired in December 2015. After Connelly retired, she and Lyons continued the fraud for approximately six months until Lyons asked Connelly to teach the scheme to Worley & Obetz’s new controller, Avilez.
Avilez’s Indictment alleges that after Connelly taught her how to commit the fraud, she knowingly continued the fraud with Lyons, falsifying Worley & Obetz’s financial statements. Lyons is also alleged to have altered a customer contract and provided the altered contract to Fulton Bank to support Worley & Obetz’s requests for more loans. The charging documents allege that the bank fraud scheme continued for at least 15 years. Fulton Bank relied on the fraudulent Worley & Obetz customer contract and the fraudulent Worley & Obetz financial statements created by Lyons, Connelly, and Avilez when it lent Worley & Obetz over $60 million.
The Information also charges Lyons with tax evasion for not reporting over $650,000 in income he received from Worley & Obetz in 2013.
“The alleged fraud here is stunning in scope and duration,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “As alleged, the defendants obtained tens of millions of dollars from bank lenders to benefit their business, when their jobs as CEO and Controller required them to act with fiduciary integrity. My Office will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to protect innocent individuals and businesses from being victimized by financial fraud.”
If convicted, Karen Connelly and Judith Avilez face a maximum possible sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine and Lyons faces a maximum sentence of 35 years’ imprisonment and a $1,250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigations, and Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiwana Wright of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.