Big homes, cool cars, reality TV stars — the oil traders saga continues

A 1957 Cadillac once owned by Frank Sinatra.

11 Mercedes Benzes.

A lakeside home with dual boat launches in upstate New York.

A house, a Bentley and diamond jewelry for a Houston socialite-turned-reality TV star.

These are just a few of the items prosecutors say were purchased by at least one of a trio of jailed oil traders accused of taking part in a scheme to defraud a major refiner out of tens of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors unsealed a 12-count indictment against the men, Jonathan Barnes and Clyde Meltzer, of Houston, and Bernard Langley of the United Kingdom. As we first reported and expanded on in December, the indictment alleged the men charged refiner LyondellBassell above-market shipping fees for oil coming from Venezuela, kicking back a portion of the excess funds to Barnes, who worked as a logistics specialist for Lyondell.

The men allegedly used the estimated $55 million they gained from the scheme to buy homes, cars, jewelery and other items for themselves, friends and family.

The indictment unsealed today has a laundry list of items, most of them purchased by Barnes, including a 1957 Cadillac Brougham that Frank Sinatra once owned. The documents can be found here.

When built, the car was more expensive than a contemporary Rolls-Royce. It was among the first cars with six-way power seats, power door locks, an automatic trunk and Autotronic Eye headlight dimmers. It also had a number of over-the-top features. These included magnetic-bottomed stainless-steel drink tumblers in the glove box, a complete lady’s makeup compact, a cigarette case and an atomizer filled with the French perfume Arpege Extrait de Lanvin.

Barnes also purchased a $750,000 home in the Wynden Oaks neighborhood north of the Galleria for self-described socialite Leslie Tyler Fink and her husband, Randy, as well as a Bentley and a number of pieces of jewelry, according to the filings.

Fink, who has her own line of cosmetics and blogs for Houston-based website www.RSVPSocial.com, may be part of an new reality TV show. In her blog she has mentioned the Bentley and jewelry provided by Barnes before (the postings seem to have been taken down but The Houston Press included them in a scathing piece last year).

Dan Cogdell, an attorney for Fink, said she has cooperated completely with investigators and returned any property that has been requested.

“Leslie never suspected that Mr. Barnes was engaged in any criminal wrong doing, nor did she have reason to,” Cogdell said.

Other Barnes assets that have either been seized or are the target of forfeiture:

  • A 5,350-square-foot home on the shores of Canandaigua Lake in Naples, N.Y., worth $2.3 million, as well as a nearby $500,000 piece of property.
  • Barnes’ 5,400-square-foot home in Bellaire, Texas, purchased in 2007 for about $773,000 but valued at $992,000 according to county records.
  • A Mercedes McLaren, a limited edition coupe that costs about $500,000
  • 10 other Mercedes
  • A Cobalt boat
  • Two Sea Doo Jet Skis
  • More than a dozen pieces of jewelry from DeBeers, Zadok Jewelers and Valobra, including a silver and diamond Cartier watch
  • Nearly $8.5 million in funds from various bank accounts.

Agents also filed forfeiture papers against property they allege Meltzer purchased with proceeds from the scheme. They include:

  • A Bellaire home in the name of Ian Meltzer, Clyde’s son. This is not the Bellaire home listed as his homestead, however.
  • A Del Ray Beach, Fla. home purchased in the name of Clyde Meltzer’s wife, Karen Rose Meltzer, valued at about $3,295,000
  • Three 2009 Cadillac Escalades
  • A 1991 Chevy Camero
  • A 1961 Chevy Impala
  • A 1960 Chevy Corvette
  • Nearly $2 million in jewelry from Zadok’s
  • An investment stake in 360 Sports Lounge on Washington Ave.

The forfeiture filings do not mean the government has taken possession of them. Rather it ensures that the properties cannot be sold without the government’s consent.

It appears at least four other individuals face charges related to the alleged scheme. The superseding indictment has blacked out their names.

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