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Press Release

Uintah Basin Man Sentenced to 18 Months’ Imprisonment for Extortion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Leallen Blackhair, 47 of Utah, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, and $18,000 in restitution after he admitted to extorting oil and gas businesses operating on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. He used the extortion money on trips to various amusement parks, dining, and shopping. 

According to court documents and statements and admissions made at the change of plea hearing, Blackhair used his coveted position as the Compliance Supervisor for the Energy and Minerals Department of the Ute Tribe, to extort $109,925 for his own personal gain over the course of three years. 

Blackhair’s responsibilities as a compliance supervisor, included issuing fines to oil and gas businesses working on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation that violated their access permits and business licenses. Blackhair used his position to induce and attempt to induce multiple companies to pay him personally by offering to reduce a fine that would otherwise be assessed against them. Blackhair extorted sixty-six payments totaling $109,925, between August 2010 and May 2013. In December 2022, Blackhair pleaded guilty to eight counts of extortion and one count of attempted extortion.

Ninety-five percent of all revenue for the Ute Tribe comes from the oil and gas industries work on the reservation. As the gatekeeper, Blackhair determined whether businesses could return to work on the reservation. Through extortion, Blackhair more than doubled his $50,000 salary and targeted mostly small, “mom and pop” businesses. Blackhair spent the extorted funds on trips to Disneyland, Legoland, Las Vegas, Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Pictures, airfare, hotels, rental cars, dining and shopping. Blackhair was sentenced March 22, 2024, before Federal District Court Judge Jill N. Parish. 

The case was investigated by the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office’s Vernal Resident Agency.  

Assistant United States Cy H. Castle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah prosecuted the case. 


Felicia Martinez
Public Affairs Specialist
(801) 325-3237
USAO-UT | Facebook | X | YouTube

Updated April 22, 2024

Financial Fraud
Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: PR-24-46