Crude crime: 4 men accused of stealing $2.4 million of oil

July 14, 2022 GMT

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — Four North Dakota men are accused of stealing more than $2.4 million worth of crude oil over a period of more than a year.

Michael Garcia, Mark McGregor, Darrell Merrell and Joseph Vandewalker are each charged in McKenzie County with felony counts of conspiracy to commit theft and dealing in stolen property. Garcia also is charged with a felony count of leading a criminal association.

Court documents state that Merrell and Vandewalker, both truck drivers, skimmed oil they were offloading at a facility by manipulating equipment such as transfer pumps during their deliveries. They allegedly stored the oil in two tanks and later offloaded it and sold it.

McGregor arranged pickup dates and details for the oil and Garcia was the “money link” for selling the oil and paying drivers, documents said.

Garcia told investigators that skimming oil is “a common practice” in the oil patch, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

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“There are a lot of trucking companies out here that skim oil, everybody does it, it’s very easy, you can manipulate the numbers,” Garcia said in the affidavit.

Attorneys for the four defendants did not respond to messages from the newspaper requesting comment. McKenzie County State’s Attorney Ty Skarda declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.