The roundup of energy patch rustlers in North Texas continues with investigators now having accounted for more than $1 million worth of stolen petroleum products, according to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

The three-year investigation has been conducted by the Texas Rangers, the Montague County District Attorney’s Office as well as the Wise County Sheriff. The counties are in the heart of the Barnett Shale.

A grand jury convened on Dec. 14 has returned 23 sealed felony indictments of theft, engaging in organized criminal activity and conspiracy against seven individuals, according to the Wise County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation is ongoing.

“We’re still doing interviews and we hope we’ll have some additional indictments,” Captain Kevin Benton of the Wise County Sheriff’s Office told NGI.

He said some of those indicted had been arrested and more arrests would come. Among those indicted are truck drivers that haul wastewater from well sites; however, the companies they work for are not suspected of any wrongdoing, according to Benton. If convicted, participants in the thefts could get from two to 99 years imprisonment.

In summer 2009 arrests were made of people accused of stealing or conspiring to steal condensate from natural gas wells in East Texas. “Those were people that were also connected to this case,” Benton said.

In July 2009 the case spanned seven Texas counties and was considered to be one of the largest oilfield theft cases ever (see Daily GPI, July 15, 2009).

“This thing has gone on for a long time,” Benton said.

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