Former Continental Fuels CEO gets house arrest, probation

The CEO of a now-defunct company who was convicted of selling stolen petroleum condensate from Mexico to U.S. energy companies was sentenced Friday to six months house arrest, three years of probation and a $10,000 fine.

Tim Brink, the former CEO of Continental Fuels of San Antonio, will be allowed to leave his home for his current job under the sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Ewing Werlein.

Brink and two others were charged with taking part in a scheme in which oil condensate was stolen from pipelines belonging to Mexico’s state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and shipped over the border to the United States. The fuel was then resold to other end users in the U.S.

A joint investigation between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and Mexican officials led first to another Continental Fuels executive, Josh Crescenzi, who had been a news liaison for former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Crescenzi, of Houston, cooperated with ICE by secretly recording conversations that led to the conviction of Brink and others.

Brink has also been cooperating with investigators, which is why the government recommended his sentence not include jail time.

Before his sentencing in Houston Friday morning, Brink told the judge his dealings with the Mexican national oil company started out as an honest transaction. Pemex officials put him in contact with the firms responsible for transporting the stolen oil across the U.S./Mexican border.

Brink’s company stored the oil in its Brownsville storage facility before other companies, including Germany-based chemical company BASF Corp. and Murphy Energy Corp. of Oklahoma, purchased it.

Representatives of BASF and Murphy said in late 2009 they didn’t know the fuel was stolen, and both said they had no reason to believe their company engaged in wrongdoing.

The fuel had gone through importers who knew the fuel was stolen, according to court testimony.

Brink didn’t find out the oil was stolen until Crescenzi told him, but he continued to sell it.

“I take full responsibility for my action and for what happened,” Brink said in court Friday.

Brink’s attorney noted Brink did not personally profit from the transactions, he was cooperating in the case and that he was also cooperating with investigators in New York who have charged the head of a firm that invested in Continental in a penny stock pump-and-dump scheme.

Brink previously testified that he knowingly sold the stolen condensate to “larger companies,” including Valero, AGE Refining and Royal Dutch Shell in 2009.

San Antonio-based Valero strongly denied the assertion, which came to light in recently released court documents.

“Contrary to Mr. Brinks’ testimony, Valero has no record of having purchased any condensates from Continental Fuels,” Valero spokesman Bill Day said in an e-mailed statement.

Speaking for AGE Refining, bankruptcy trustee Eric Moeller said the sale of the stolen petroleum “hasn’t come up in any way in bankruptcy” proceedings. AGE Refining filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on Feb. 8. It owns a single refinery in San Antonio.

A Shell spkesman in Houston declined comment.