One Eagle Ford oil thief is now behind bars and two of his buddies are soon to follow.
Related: Oil Theft Climbs in the Eagle Ford
Last Wednesday, United States District Judge Alia Moses sentenced Juan Martin Bernal of Eagle Pass to 21 months in federal prison for his role in stealing $1.4 million in Eagle Ford Shale oil. Bernal was one of three defendants who pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an interstate shipment.
As part of his sentence, Bernal will also be required to pay a monetary judgment of $150,000 and will be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.
Last year, Bernal and two co-defendants, 26-year-old Carlos Samuel Pena of Del Rio and 38-year-old Victor Manuel Guerra, Jr., the owner of Las Lomas Vacuum Services and AVG Vacuum Services in Laredo, pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an interstate shipment.
Bernal and two co-defendants--26–year-old Carlos Samuel Pena of Del Rio and 38-year-old Victor Manuel Guerra, Jr., admitted that between January 2011 and August 2014, they devised a scheme to steal oil from Newfield Exploration Company, and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
Guerra owned Las Lomas Vacuum Services and AVG Vacuum Services in Laredo and the trio used his wastewater removal trucks to transport the stolen oil. The oil was transported to Guerra’s property where he would sell the stolen product to third-party buyers who paid for the oil by wire transfer.
Guerra and Pena face up to ten years in federal prison. Guerra’s sentencing is April 25 and Pena’s is June 20. Both are scheduled to appear in Del Rio before Moses.
The case relied on an army of local, state and federal officials who were involved in the investigation including the FBI, the IRS Service Criminal Investigation, the Texas Attorney General’s Special Investigations Unit, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, the Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Railroad Commission.
In December,Texas lawmakers met in Austin to discuss the growing problem of oil theft in the Texas oil patch and to craft a bill that would increase the penalties for the crime. This is likely to be one of the top energy issues for the next legislative session in 2017, as lawmakers aim to send Abbott an anti-theft bill he can stomach.