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Brothers convicted in Target Oil fraud case

A U.S. District Court jury in Lexington has convicted two brothers on several charges stemming from allegations that they defrauded investors in a Kentucky oil and gas company.

Michael D. Smith, 54, of Lancaster, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 11 counts of mail fraud. He was acquitted of eight other mail-fraud counts and two wire-fraud counts.

Smith's brother, Christopher Cello Smith, 40, of Prestonsburg, was convicted of seven counts of mail fraud. The jury cleared Christopher Smith of 12 mail-fraud counts, two wire-fraud counts and one conspiracy count.

Jurors returned the verdicts about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, after about 10 hours of deliberation that started Friday afternoon. The case went to the jury after a monthlong trial.

Michael Smith is the president of Target Oil and Gas Co. in Albany and owns a controlling interest in Kentucky Indiana Oil and Gas, based in Danville.

Federal prosecutors charged that Michael Smith and other co-defendants used false statements and misrepresentations to lure individuals into investing more than $12 million in Target Oil during 2003-08. The company returned about $538,000 in royalties to the investors.

Two other co-defendants previously had pleaded guilty in the case.

The Smith brothers will be sentenced in October. Each could face up to 20 years in prison.

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