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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Texas

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

First Defendant Sentenced to Federal Prison in Eagle Ford Shale Oil Theft Case

In Del Rio today, 50-year-old Juan Martin Bernal of Eagle Pass, TX, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme to steal an estimated $1.4 Million worth of Eagle Ford Shale oil announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division, and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge William Cotter. 

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Alia Moses ordered that Bernal pay a monetary judgment of $150,000 and to be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term. 

Last year, Bernal and his two co-defendants--26–year-old Carlos Samuel Pena of Del Rio and 38-year-old Victor Manuel Guerra, Jr., owner of Las Lomas Vacuum Services and AVG Vacuum Services in Laredo, TX--pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an interstate shipment.  By pleading guilty, the defendants admitted that between January 2011 and August 2014, they devised a scheme to steal oil from multiple energy companies operating in the South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale using Guerra’s wastewater removal trucks.  Those companies included a company Bernal worked for, Newfield Exploration Company, and a company that employed Pena, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. 

According to court documents, Guerra’s company had no contract or permission to be on Newfield or Andranko property.  However, Bernal and Pena covertly allowed Guerra’s wastewater trucks onto Newfield and Andranko properties where the drivers, in collusion with the defendants, would take oil.  The pilfered oil was then transported to Guerra’s property where Guerra would sell the stolen product for financial gain to third-party buyers who would pay for the oil via wire transfer. 

Guerra and Pena face up to ten years in federal prison.  Guerra’s sentencing is scheduled for April 25, 2016.  Pena’s sentencing is scheduled for June 20, 2016.  Both hearings are scheduled to take place in Del Rio before Judge Moses.

This case resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, Texas Attorney General’s Special Investigations Unit, Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers, Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Railroad Commission.  Assistant United States Attorneys Bryan Nathan Reeves and Timothy Adam Duree are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

Updated February 4, 2016