Eagle Ford oil theft defendant headed to prison

The first defendant accused in an Eagle Ford Shale oil theft scheme was sentenced Wednesday in Del Rio.

Juan Martin Bernal, 50, of Eagle Pass, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

Bernal and two other men were accused of scheming to steal an estimated $1.4 million in Eagle Ford Shale oil from energy companies Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co.

The federal indictment alleged that they used wastewater vacuum trucks to steal oil stored in tanks on ranches. Instead of loading wastewater, they loaded oil.

U.S. District Judge Alia Moses also ordered that Bernal pay $150,000 and be placed on supervised release for three years after his prison term.

Last year, Bernal and two co-defendants, 26-year-old Carlos Samuel Pena of Del Rio and 38-year-old Victor Manuel Guerra, Jr., the owner of Las Lomas Vacuum Services and AVG Vacuum Services in Laredo, pleaded guilty to one count of theft from an interstate shipment.

The men admitted that between January 2011 and August 2014, they devised a scheme to use Guerra’s wastewater removal trucks to steal oil from a company Bernal worked for, Newfield Exploration, and Pena’s employer, Anadarko.

The oil was transported to Guerra’s property where he would sell the stolen product to third-party buyers who paid for the oil by wire transfer.

Guerra and Pena face up to ten years in federal prison. Guerra’s sentencing is April 25 and Pena’s is June 20. Both are scheduled to appear in Del Rio before Moses.

The case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Texas Attorney General’s Special Investigations Unit, the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, the Dimmit County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Railroad Commission. Prosecutors are assistant U.S. attorneys Bryan Nathan Reeves
and Timothy Adam Duree.