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First of Three Sentenced in Eagle Ford Crude Theft Ring

A 50-year-old man from Eagle Pass, TX, has been 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.

Juan Martin Bernal was sentenced in Del Rio, TX, and ordered to pay $150,000. He is to be subject to three years of supervised release after his prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

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. They were caught in 2014 (see Shale DailyNov. 21, 2014).

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 Co., and a company that employed Pena, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

According to court documents, Guerra's company had no contract or permission to be on Newfield or Anadarko property. However, Bernal and Pena covertly allowed Guerra's wastewater trucks onto Newfield and Anadarko 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 10 years in federal prison. Guerra's sentencing is scheduled for April 25. Pena's sentencing is scheduled for June 20.

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