A former Whiting Petroleum Corp. employee was arrested last month in North Dakota on suspicion of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.
James Bennett, 52, who was employed by Whiting as a construction supervisor, is charged in Weld District Court with one count of fraud against the Colorado Department of Revenue, one count of theft and seven counts of money laundering. In addition, Bennett faces one organized crime act violation for racketeering. All of the charges are felonies.
Bennett follows his wife, Leila, 39, also a former employee of Whiting, who became the focus of a fraud investigation that began in March by the Weld District Attorney’s Office. Leila was hired by Whiting as a third-party contractor, and procurement and materials supervisor at its Redtail Pipeline site near New Raymer in northeastern Weld County. Between October 2014 and February 2015, Leila copied invoices from legitimate companies and then submitted identical work orders from her company, A&H Services, LLC, to Whiting for payment. In total, Leila stole $679,386 from the Denver-based company.
During the investigation, Leila told detectives she stole the money to purchase land and equipment for a future oil field services company of her own. Some of the expenses included a Bobcat track loader for $97,000, a 2015 GMC pickup for $60,000, a Jayhawk trailer to haul the Bobcat, a 2015 International vacuum truck for $188,000, and a Sprayworks Equipment Group trailer for $61,000, records stated. She and James also bought a 65-acre parcel near Bushnell, Neb. for $100,000.
In addition to the purchases made for the future business, Leila claimed she also did a lot of good with the money she stole from Whiting, including sending about $160,000 overseas to move her ailing father to the United Kingdom from Algeria. She also purchased robotics for her daughter’s school robotics program, paid off all of her in-laws credit card debt and took her family on a cruise, records stated.
“I know you won’t believe me, but I was going to pay it all back,” Leila told investigators, according to court records. “Once I got my business going, I was going to just anonymously give Whiting $1,000 here and $5,000 there until it was all paid back.”
Leila was arrested and charged in May with 57 felony counts, including theft, computer crime and forgery. Leila also was charged with a COCCA violation for racketeering.
In August, Leila pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge. She was sentenced in October to 10 years in prison. All of the other charges were dropped.
In March, when the investigation into Leila began, James denied having any knowledge about his wife’s activities. He also claimed he knew nothing about A&H Services, LLC, until Leila filed her income taxes that same month.
He would later become a suspect when investigators obtained Community Banks of Colorado records from Nov. 7, 2014, and Jan. 9, 2015. On those days, three business accounts were opened under A&H Services, LLC. Bank records contained both Leila and James’ signatures, records stated. In addition, James’ signature appears on several withdrawal slips and checks totaling $160,383 between December 2014 and March 2015.
This article was written by Joe Moylan from Greeley Tribune, Colo. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.