FBI Investigates EnerVest for Ohio Utica Lease Fraud

The FBI has been drawn into what was once a civil case in Ohio. EnerVest once owned nearly one million acres in the Ohio Utica Shale. It was unintentional. Most of the acreage came from owning old conventional/vertical oil and gas wells in the state. Belmont County, OH landowner, Matt Crislip, says EnerVest perpetrated a fraud on him by pretending his long inactive/dead conventional well was once again producing. The practice is known as “back-fed”–running gas from a pipeline back to the well, so it appears the well is still producing gas. Why do something crazy like that? So the driller can claim the well is producing and is “held by production”–allowing that driller to turn around and sell the lease to someone else (Ascent Resources, in this case) for “millions” according to Crislip. The result is Crislip didn’t see a penny in new lease-signing bonuses, and he didn’t get the opportunity to negotiate a new royalty rate. EnerVest flatly denies the back-fed charge and said they will defend themselves “vigorously.” So far the FBI has only investigated Crislip’s claim, and no charges have been filed. Yet. Here’s a look at Crislip’s claim and the FBI’s ongoing investigation, which may expand beyond Belmont County…

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