A man accused of selling millions of dollars in fake mineral rights, along with a parter, has pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports 29-year-old William J. Ray could face about three years in prison for securing fake leases and selling them to gas companies. The scheme was discovered by employees of Range Resources.
According to assistant U.S. attorney Nelson Cohen, the two wrote up and filed false deeds and forged the signatures of property owners, transferring mineral rights to “bogus companies” they created.
“They thereafter sold and leased the mineral rights to Range Resources” and other companies, he said.
Questioned by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, Mr. Cohen said the two fraudulently sold the rights to drill on some 40 Washington County properties for about $2.4 million.
In addition to a potential prison term, Mr. Ray has agreed to forfeit $543,146 and to pay restitution from future earnings.
The Post-Gazette reports Ray’s partner, Derek A. Candelor, has pleaded not guilty.