Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

U.S. Attorney Works to Put Plug on Oil Field Thefts

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

U.S. Attorney Works to Put Plug on Oil Field Thefts

Article excerpt

Though the 1980s' boom is busted, oil field theft continues to plague rural Oklahoma, which makes a recent conviction of an Oklahoman charged in a 23 count indictment that much sweeter for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

For two years, Charley Hargus, of Asher, Okla., had engaged in a scheme to steal oil from others and then sell it as his own, claiming it was from a lease that he owned when in fact the oil was from an unproductive lease, said Joe Heaton, first assistant U.S. attorney.

Specifically, Hargus took oil from wells operated by Tex-Star, the owner of leases in Seminole County, and sold it to John Armstrong Development Co. and Sun Refining and Marketing Co. Heaton reported that evidence at Hargus' trial indicated approximately $662,000 in illegal sales occurred. Hargus has not been sentenced, but he faces a possible term of imprisonment of up to 20 years, plus fines and restitution. "Oil field theft was more prevalent in the `80s," said Kym Koch, public information director with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, "but it's still a problem." She adds that lack of manpower is one reason why these crimes still occur. "If we had more people, we could do more." In the `80s, oil field thefts often involved huge pieces of machinery, but today, the crimes typically are committed by individuals who work for large oil companies, syphon off the oil from their employers' wells, and sell it as their own. Koch attributes the decrease in equipment theft to individual oil companies' in-house security. "Oil companies have gotten better with their own security," said Koch. Numbers are sketchy about actual losses from oil field theft, said Mickey Thompson, president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. "Oil field thefts most often take place in rural areas -- the sheriff in Kingfisher might know how much takes place in Kingfisher County or the sheriff in El Reno might know the oil field thefts in Canadian County," said Thompson. But the U.S. Attorney's Office sees any theft as one too many. "We take the matter of oil field theft very seriously and will pursue it vigorously," said Patrick Ryan, U. …

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