An Energy Transfer LP employee who oversaw security at work sites along the Mariner East (ME) pipeline project in Pennsylvania, along with four others from two different security companies, were arrested this week and charged with bribery, conspiracy and related offenses.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan’s office said an investigation revealed that ET Security Manager Frank Recknagel allegedly hired Pennsylvania constables to police sites along the project in their official capacity, which the district attorney claims isn’t permitted for private security jobs. The constables are elected officials.
According to Hogan’s office, the constables appeared armed at pipeline sites as security personnel wearing their official uniforms and displaying constable badges. Furthermore, Hogan’s office alleges that Recknagel orchestrated a scheme to “offshore” the hiring and payment of the constables to Pennsylvania-based Raven Knights LLC and North Carolina-based TigerSwan LLC in an attempt to hide the activity.
“Energy Transfer could have simply hired a reputable private security firm and paid the security guards directly,” Hogan’s office said. “Instead, Recknagel and Energy Transfer wanted the power of the badge to enforce their corporate will and engaged in illegal activity to make it happen, then hid the payments in a byzantine process to avoid detection to their role.”
ET scoffed at the charges. Spokesperson Lisa Coleman said Wednesday that management believes they “do not have any merit” or the ability to stand in court. Coleman noted that the constables were hired independently by Raven Knights.
“Local law enforcement never expressed any objection to this security plan when it was discussed and implemented,” she told NGI. “To now characterize the hiring of Pennsylvania constables as somehow intentionally unlawful is extremely troubling.” Coleman added that the company plans to stand by Recknagel.
The ME system, which consists of three pipelines in various stages of development and service, has faced constant regulatory and legal challenges that have led to delays and operational problems. Both Hogan’s office and the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office are conducting separate criminal investigations of the project. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also reportedly investigating how the state came to issue permits for the pipelines.
Many residents living near the project, primarily those in the southeast part of the state where Chester and Delaware counties are located, have protested the system and raised concerns about its safety following a series of incidents during construction, including sinkholes that have repeatedly opened along the right-of-way.
The system, which is in partial service, moves natural gas liquids from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia for export and domestic distribution.
Also arrested and charged were: Nikolas McKinnon, senior security adviser for TigerSwan; Michael Boffo, site security supervisor for TigerSwan; James Murphy, operator of Raven Knights, and Raven Knights owner Richard Lester.
TigerSwan was sued in 2017 by North Dakota’s Private Investigative and Security Board, which alleged that the company operated without a license during protests of ET’s Dakota Access Pipeline. The case was eventually dismissed by a state court.