Bogus invoices requested ‘environmental’ fees
CALGARY, Alta.—A police sting operation has led to charges against a Calgary man who allegedly used false invoices to try to bilk oil and gas companies of millions.
Investigators allege that a business calling itself Alberta Environmental Registry sent out fake invoices last month, requesting companies pay ‘environmental compliance’ fees.
“As part of the government of Alberta environmental program and initiatives, the Alberta Environmental Registry applies a environmental and compliance fee on active single-well/gas batteries operated by your company commencing with the 2010 production year,” the false invoices said.
They also warned of a late payment penalty of 20 per cent on any amount unpaid by the July 30 due date.
The invoices ranged from $400,000 to $3.3 million and were based on the number of wells owned and operated by each company.
“It looked pretty sophisticated and it is alleged he did have knowledge of the oil and gas industry so that these invoices (were) very believable,” said Const. Tanya Bertulli of the Calgary Police Service economic crimes unit.
Bertulli says at least seven firms received the invoices but there could be more. None of them paid the fake fees.
“A lot of these companies were very smart to pick it up. We believe had the amounts been smaller, that they would have just paid out,” she said.
Alberta Environment Department sent out a warning about the fake invoices late last month and police used a sting to get the suspect to come in.
“A member of the fraud detail called him and posed as one of the companies and advised him that there was a cheque available from the invoice that was received,” said Bertulli.
“He advised him that he needed to come in and pick up this cheque so that a signature could be received, so he came in and we got him.”
John Edward Wilson of Calgary is charged with three counts of fraud over $5,000. Police say further charges are possible.