Bakken Oil Lease Telemarketer Mike Campa Sentenced To 30 Years Without Parole
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Helena, on January 30, 2014, before Senior U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, the mastermind of a nationwide oil and case swindle involving fraudulent investments in leases on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, MIKE ALFONS CAMPA, 55, of Yorba Linda, California, was sentenced to 360 months-30 years-in prison and $5,175,406 in restitution.
Campa was sentenced for his involvement in a telemarketing fraud scheme that operated from 2006 until it was shut down by federal agents in the summer of 2012. Campa and his associates promised investors that they had oil and gas leases with the prospect of production and refining on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The group sold interests in the promotion to investors from all over the United States. In truth, Campa's leases were never valid (for failure to follow procedural requirements) and to the extent they were available they were cancelled in 2007.
Campa pled guilty to all charges just prior to the trial of his wife, Suzette Gal, her sons and codefendants, Andras Gal and Krisztian Gal, and his business partner and codefendant, Steven Carpenter. Campa then appeared as a defense witness for the Gal defendants, placing much of the blame on Carpenter but telling the jury that his wife and her children were blameless.
Suzette Gal was convicted on all counts and sentenced to ten years in prison in August 2013. Andras Gal was convicted on all counts and sentenced to six years in prison. In December 2013, Krisztian Gal, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, was sentenced to five years in prison. Steve Carpenter, who had a criminal history for committing telemarketing fraud dating back to the early 1990s, was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 188 months in August of 2013. All have appealed their convictions.
At trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney's Carl Rostad and Ryan Weldon provided evidence that in the summer of 2006, a California man originally from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation who had inherited mineral interests on the reservation, was approached by Mike Campa and Suzette Gal. Campa and Gal convinced the owner to lease his land for an oil and natural gas project to Domestic Energy Solutions, a company based in Yorba Linda, California. In June and July, Suzette Gal, as President of Domestic Energy Solutions, signed three Offers to Lease on Fort Pack lands. On October 20, 2006, the BIA informed Domestic Energy Solutions that the three oil and gas leases had been approved and billed the company $8,583.40 for the three leases. When the payment required to complete the leasing process was not forthcoming from Domestic Energy Solutions the leases were cancelled. The correspondence advising the company of their default was signed for by Mike Campa and Suzette Gal. Domestic Energy Solutions never responded to the BIA letters warning of default and cancelling the leases, and never again communicated with the BIA to perfect their interest.
A US Bank account was opened in October of 2009 by Andras Gal, using the Domestic Energy Solutions address of 5818 Via Romero in Yorba Linda. The account was opened as a business account for company Domestic Energy Solutions. Gal indicated on the account opening documents that Domestic Energy Solutions was a sole proprietorship owned by him and was the only person listed on the account's signature card. The account was opened with a $2,500.00 deposit of a check dated October 1, 2009, made payable to Domestic Energy Solutions from investors from Port Orange, Florida.
On December 15, 2009, Mike Heretel, an alias name known to be used by Mike Alfons Campa, opened the e mail account firstname.lastname@example.org which was used to communicate with, and solicit investments from, potential investors in Domestic Energy Solutions. The solicitations for investment in a Fort Peck/Bakken Fields oil and gas project made by Mike Campa, using the alias Mike Heretel, began generating significant investment from investors persuaded to participate in the oil and gas venture. Campa used the BIA Lease documents generated in the summer of 2006 as validation for his claims that Domestic Energy Solutions had an ongoing enterprise in northwest Montana.
Between May 2010 and December 2011, the conspirators solicited, or aided and abetted in the solicitation of, monies from investors based upon conversations by phone and e-mail with Mike Campa and Steve Carpenter.
In June 2011, Mike Campa began notifying investors with Domestic Energy Solutions that the company was going to become a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) and merge with US Energy. For example, prosecutors introduced at trial a June 30, 2011, email message sent from email@example.com to dijoe@*****.net and copied to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line of "letter of intent." The body of the e mail read, "***, Domestic Energy Solutions and US Energy will be one LLC and you will get ownership as a non-liable partner. This letter was emailed to Bureau of Indian Affairs and was given the green light by Lori Nordwick, the acting superintendent. The original and all the other info is on the way to the Ft. Peck tribe. Your patience will be well rewarded. Thanks, Mike P.S. I'll try to avoid you having to wire the $5000 tomorrow and let you overnight a check." The prosecutors introduced dozens of emails at trial making the same or similar promises and fraudulent representations.
On July 22, 2011, an e mail message sent from email@example.com to an investor or potential investor, which had a five page Letter of Intent for Business Transactions dated June 28, 2011. The letter was from U.S. Energy, 18340 Yorba Linda Blvd. #153, Yorba Linda, CA 92887 and addressed to the Superintendent, Ft. Peck Reservation. The letter was a proposed agreement between U.S. Energy and the Ft. Peck Reservation to allow U.S. Energy to "build a 20,000 barrel per day oil refinery on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation." No such letter was ever received by the BIA, but the letter was used by the conspirators to validate their claims that investors would profit not only from oil and gas production but from the refined products as well.
In September 2011, investors were notified by Steve Carpenter that U.S. Oil and Gas, LLC had acquired Domestic Energy Solutions. The solicitations are the same-" that U. S. Energy has an oil and gas operation on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation" and that the investors could "buy in" and realize significant returns on their investment.
Another example of the communications from the conspirators is a September 6, 2011, email to an investor from Steve Carpenter, using an e-mail account of firstname.lastname@example.org, which read, in part, that "[t]his letter is to acknowledge that US Oil and Gas has assumed all Domestic Energy Solutions clients, liabilities and projects." Attached to the e-mail were blank pages of a Bureau of Indian Affairs Collective Bond form. This notification was also sent to other investors. At trial, victims testified that Carpenter's appeal for more money suggested that without additional capital, all previous investments would be lost, placing the victims in the position to either add to their share or lose everything they had already committed.
A new US Bank account was opened on September 12, 2011, in the name of U.S. Oil and Gas by Andras Gal, using the Domestic Energy Solutions address of 5818 Via Romero, Yorba Linda, CA 92887. Gal indicated on the account opening documents that U.S. Oil and Gas was a sole proprietorship involved in the oil drilling business and he was the only person listed on the account's signature card. The account was opened with an $18,000.00 check from an investor in Redmond, Washington. On the memo line of the check a notation indicated "1% ownership."
An e mail email@example.com created on July 16, 2011, by Mike Campa (as Heretel). This e mail account was used to communicate with and solicit investments from potential investors in Domestic Energy Solutions. On September 28, 2011 at 5:21 p.m., an e-mail message to an investor from the firstname.lastname@example.org account, with a subject line of "montana info" read "Ed check out this confidential report [link omitted]. Then go to momtanancdude.com for other links. Attached is our letter of intent submitted to the Indians. If you have any questions please call me at 714 489 1919. Thanks, Steve Carpenter". The website address in the e mail linked to a 98 page report entitled Status of Mineral Resource Information for the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Northeastern Montana B Administrative Report BIA 28 (1977) Also attached to the e-mail was a five page Letter of Intent for Business Transactions, dated June 28, 2011, from AU.S. Oil and Gas, LLC aka Domestic Energy Solutions, 18340 Yorba Linda Blvd. #153, Yorba Linda, CA 92887.@ The letter was to the Superintendent, Ft. Peck Reservation and purportedly represented or referenced a proposed agreement between U.S. Energy and the Ft. Peck Reservation to allow U.S. Energy to build a "20,000 barrel per day oil refinery" on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation. The letter was unsigned. The BIA has no record of ever receiving any such letter and at trial, Fort peck Tribes official Stoney Anketell testified that he had never heard of these companies and that there had never been any negotiations with Campa or Carpenter about the construction of an oil refinery on reservation lands.
As an example of the solicitation as it evolved after June 2011, in an October 27, 2011, email@example.com email sent to a potential investor-with a subject line of "montana oil"-Carpenter wrote that "[e]ach $30,000.00 investment will entitle you to a 1% ownership in US Oil and Gas and all income generated on the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation. Each percentage will also include income generated by all oil and natural gas, our drilling rigs, a 20,000 bpd refinery, pipelines and other land leases. You will recoup your initial investment within 120 days of completion and monthly checks thereafter of at least 5 percent. Upon receipt of your funds, payable to U.S. Oil and Gas, we will file your name with the Bureau of Land Management in Montana, and they will in turn forward you the necessary paperwork and contacts. Attached is our official letter of intent and other documents. Check out this confidential report ... Thankyou (sic) for your Trust and Confidence. We look forward to sharing our success with you. Steve Carpenter." The e-mail was nearly identical-even with the same typo and case structure-to emails sent by Mike Campa in 2009.
On February 17, 2012, a person who suspected he may have been a victim of the Campa/Carpenter oil and gas scheme made a referral to the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General. On March 1, 2012, a phone call was made to Steve Carpenter that was monitored by federal agents. During the phone call Steve Carpenter assured the investor that there was "zero chance" that the investor would lose the money that had been committed to the investment with U.S. Oil and Gas, LLC. Carpenter told the investor that "everything was going perfect" with U.S. Oil and Gas and the Fort Peck investment. Carpenter advised that he was going to have a conference call on March 5, 2012, with the Fort Peck Tribe in order to finalize everything so that the drilling could begin.
The FBI and Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General initiated a joint undercover investigation of Steve Carpenter, Mike Campa, Suzette Gal, and Andras Gal in April 2012. During a recorded phone call between Steve Carpenter and an undercover agent (UA) from the Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General posing as a potential investor, Carpenter told the UA that he would receive paperwork from the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs that would show that the UA had an ownership interest in the Indian mineral rights. Carpenter told the UA that he, Carpenter, was required to have, and had posted an irrevocable $75,000 certificate of deposit bond with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in connection with the project. During one of their conversations, Carpenter told the UA that he was so close to the Fort Peck Indians that they were going to have a ceremony in his honor and make him a blood-brother of the Tribe.
The UA, posing as a watercraft broker from South Carolina willing to invest in the oil and gas project at Fort Peck, arranged to meet Carpenter in person to deliver a $43,000 check. The two met in a hotel room in Yorba Linda, California, on August 23, 2012. Their meeting was video and audio recorded by agents of the FBI. During that meeting, Carpenter told the UA that the project was on the cusp of fruition and that he had received $158 million dollars in loan commitments from banks in Central and South America. Carpenter assured the UA that he had three rigs on site and that he was working closely with the BLM, BIA, and the Tribes.
Immediately after the meeting, FBI agents arrested Carpenter. Campa, Suzette Gal, Andras Gal and Krisztian Gal were arrested later that day.
Between October of 2009 and May 25, 2012, the Fort Peck oil and gas schemes (Domestic Energy Solutions and U.S. Oil and Gas) brought the defendants approximately $673,406.62 in monies from investors.
Judge Haddon also heard evidence of Campa's involvement in a 2011-2012 Arizona gold mining scheme. Prosecutors linked the two schemes by following money from the Liberty Bell scheme-being run by former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington-into an account controlled by Krisztian Gal and proceeds from that account to Steve Carpenter. The Arizona gold mine scheme was shut down by state authorities in May of 2013. Trial testimony revealed that Campa had received a $900,000 commission for his role in bringing in a $4.5 million investment into the Liberty Bell scheme.
At sentencing, prosecutors emphasized Campa's long history of telemarketing and investment fraud. On July 8, 1993, Campa pled guilty in California to mail fraud. Campa owned and operated a company named International Marketing Concepts, which was engaged in extensive telemarketing fraud. Campa and his employees would inform elderly victims that they had won fictitious, expensive prizes and persuade the victims to send money in order to claim their winnings.
While free on bail after the first guilty plea, Campa resumed his illegal telemarketing activities. He was re-arrested on February 4, 1994. On March 17, 1994, he pled guilty to two more counts of wire fraud. The court then sentenced Campa to sixty months' incarceration with three years' supervised release and ordered Campa to pay $319,123 in restitution and a $150 fine.
On October 11, 2012, the United States filed a pleading with the Court outlining Campa's involvement in other fraudulent investment promotions. Campa, both individually or through his association with other telemarketing schemes as a salesman, was the subject of cease and desist orders from Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington State. On April 2, 2007, the State of Colorado obtained a default judgment against Mike Campa in the amount of $476,875 for his role in an oil and gas investment fraud scheme called Universal Energy Solutions.
United States Attorney Mike Cotter:
This sentence puts an end to Mike's Campa's chances to prey on others. Telemarketing fraud is a uniquely deplorable crime-from the sophistication and thought it requires to construct and execute to the vulnerability of the people it targets. Campa's victims included the elderly looking for a chance to pass along a nest-egg to their children and the desperate caring for a sick loved one or facing foreclosure. People like Mike Campa and Steve Carpenter feed on hope and live on other peoples' dreams-enjoying the high-life while condemning their victims to poverty. In a single phone call they can take away everything a person has saved and everything they are saving for. Only a sentence like this can protect the public from a man like Mike Campa."
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the (truth in sentencing( guidelines mandate that Campa will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, Campa does have the opportunity to earn a limited reduction in time served for (good behavior(; a reduction for good conduct while incarcerated will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.