For the past three decades -- on and off, but mostly on -- there was no swindle too small-time for Alan Todd May. Credit card abuse, theft, check fraud -- however he could make an easy, sleazy buck, May did what he could wherever he could to whomever he met. One day, perhaps, someone will make a movie about his exploits -- a dark comedy seems about right, though those from whom he stole millions won't find much to laugh at. Still, such a format would allow for the scene described by the Houston Chronicle in 1995: "By using the pay phone at the jail and an answering service, May is suspected of setting up bogus trade shows in Houston, Austin, Dallas and Denver and getting people to mail him entry fees. ... May then typically cancels the event or has an excuse for moving it."
We first met May in June 2010 -- just as deputy U.S. Marshals were catching up with May in San Francisco. He wasn't supposed to be there. He was wanted by federal authorities here, in Dallas, where May ran something called Prosper Oil & Gas on N. St. Paul downtown. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, along with a handful of other government law enforcement agencies, said May was running another scam -- this one involving oil wells that didn't exist and investors' money that did.
When all was said and done, May pocketed $7 million belonging to 174 people who believed his every pitch and promise. He bought fancy cars and several homes in Dallas, each, said the feds, worth more than $1.5 million. He gave money to his mother, brother, daughter, even the ex. He hightailed it to San Francisco and assumed a few phony names: Mark Mangum, Brian Peirce and Justin Gore among them. But he was done for in the summer of 2010; six months later, he pleaded guilty.
And now, says the U.S. Attorney's Office, he's going away for 20 years -- the maximum sentence allowed by law, thanks to U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle just this afternoon. Sometime within the next three months we'll know how much he owes -- probably a lot, it goes without saying.
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DALLAS BUSINESSMAN SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON
FOR RUNNING OIL AND GAS PONZI SCHEME
Alan Todd May Owned Prosper Oil & Gas
Fraudulently Raised Approximately $7 Million from Investors
DALLAS -- Alan Todd May, 46, who pleaded guilty in December 2010 to one count of mail fraud, admitting that he raised approximately $7 million in investor funds under false pretenses, was sentenced this afternoon by U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle to the statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. The Court stated that it will address the issue of restitution within 90 days. Today's announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
May has been in custody since his arrest in June 2010 in San Francisco on a related federal criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas. A few weeks later, he was indicted on one count of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Per the terms of his plea agreement with the government, the government dismissed the remaining mail and wire fraud counts.
May formed Prosper Oil & Gas, Inc. and was its president. Prosper purported to own and operate oil and gas leases in several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arkansas. According to plea documents filed in the case, beginning in July 2008, and continuing through the beginning of March 2010, May ran a scheme to obtain, by false and fraudulent pretenses, obtained approximately $7 million from investors to purchase royalty interests in oil and gas leases.
To sell these royalty interests, May, along with others, made various false and misleading statements to investors. For example, May and others told investors that the royalty interests for sale had yielded, or would yield, annual returns greater than 25%. As a result of these representations, Prosper sold purported royalty interests to more than 170 investors.
In fact, in operating their massive Ponzi scheme, May and others were: selling mineral interests that Prosper didn't own; overselling mineral interests that Prosper did not own; wildly overstating the production revenue for Prosper's leases in order to sell mineral interests; and making Ponzi payments, disguised as "royalty" payments, to investors.
May admitted using investor funds for extravagant personal expenses and to make payments to his mother, daughter, brother and ex-wife.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened a separate investigation into May and Prosper Oil and Gas, and in March 2010 filed a civil complaint against them alleging that May and Prosper raised at least $6 million from at least 99 investors throughout the U.S. in fraudulent securities offerings, consisting of fractional, undivided royalty interests in oil and gas properties. U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay ordered that Prosper Oil and Gas, and any assets of Alan May, be placed in receivership. The SEC identified six accounts that Prosper Oil & Gas used to receive investor funds, receive oil and gas revenues, and make payouts to Prosper's investors. Those accounts revealed approximately $6.7 million in total incoming investor funds; approximately $441,000 of total oil and gas revenue; and approximately $1.2 million of investor distributions.
This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Fahey and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert B. Long of the SEC prosecuted.