Former Houston gas trader Stephanie Roqumore pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of wire fraud arising from a scheme to defraud numerous natural gas trading companies of nearly $8 million, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

At a hearing before U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes in Houston, Roqumore, 48, admitted that from March 2002 through April 2010 she used fraudulent financial statements to defraud 12 companies: Virginia Power Energy Marketing, Inc.; Coral Energy Resources, LP; Occidental Energy Marketing Inc.; Energy-Koch Trading LP; Cargill Inc.; Hess Corp.; Natural Fuel Resources Inc.; Proliance Energy LLC; Southwest Energy LP; Adams Resource Marketing Ltd.; Allegheny Energy; and CMS Resource Energy Management Co.

Hughes scheduled sentencing for May 9. Each of the wire care fraud counts carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition to pleading to the criminal charges, Roqumore has agreed to a forfeiture of more than $4.8 million in illegal proceeds from her scheme, DOJ said.

Roqumore was charged in September (see Daily GPI, Sept. 15, 2010). She remains free on bond pending sentencing.

Roqumore admitted that as the sole employee, owner and operator of three gas trading companies: SRR Energy Management Resources, Inc, doing business as Gas Energy Management Inc. (GEM); Gas American Resources Inc. (GAR); and Resource American Energy (RAE), she contacted gas trading companies all over the country requesting to trade natural gas with them.

If the company was interested in trading with Roqumore, the two parties entered into a base contract for sale and purchase of gas. Shortly after entering into the contract, Roqumore would request a line of credit from the trading company in order to buy gas from it. The companies required financial statements from Roqumore for whichever of her three companies she was using at the time. The line of credit was granted based on the net worth of the company provided in its financials. The financial statements that Roqumore provided were falsified by her to make her companies (GEM, GAR and RAE) appear to be more profitable and worth far more than they actually were, DOJ said.

Roqumore admitted purchasing gas from the victim companies and then selling it to other companies. When the trades settled, Roqumore was paid for the gas she sold but she did not pay the victim company for the gas she bought, according to DOJ.

For example, from November to December 2005, Energy-Koch Trading (EKT) sold GEM $1.1 million of gas on credit. Roqumore, in turn, sold that natural gas to four other companies for just under $1.1 million. On the settlement dates, GEM was paid more than $1.09 million by the four companies, but GEM paid EKT $50,000. Roqumore never paid EKT the remainder owed for the gas she purchased, DOJ said.

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