A Southern Kentucky man ripped off investors by lying about potential profits from oil and gas wells, a federal court jury ruled Friday.
The jury in Frankfort convicted Ronnie C. Rodgers of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and securities fraud, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr.
Rodgers, 62, of Columbia, had been ordered to stop selling investments in oil and gas wells after running afoul of state regulators.
Instead of stopping, he allegedly set up shell companies and continued soliciting money from investors for wells in Adair, Clinton, Pulaski and Warren counties in Kentucky, and also in Tennessee.
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Rodgers sold investments totaling about $10 million under the names Rick-Rod Oil, Big South Resources, R&R Plus, and Hydro & Green Global Energy, Duncan said in a news release.
Rodgers and his brother, Rickey, hit a well in Adair County in 2007 that had significant production, and he used that as a selling point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor told jurors in his opening argument.
In reality, however, Ronnie C. Rodgers knew that most wells drilled in Southern Kentucky produce little, if any oil, and that most of his investors would lose money, according to the indictment.
Despite that, Rodgers allegedly promised significant production and profits and even said he’d made millions for some investors.
“It’s a game of smoke and mirrors,” Taylor said.
Rodgers poured on the charm to sell his wells, Taylor said.
But when investors started asking why they weren’t seeing royalty checks, they got excuses about bad weather, illness or problems with contractors.
“And then this guy who originally seemed like their best friend will be hard to reach,” Taylor said.
Rodgers was a convicted felon, but did not disclose his criminal record to investors or tell them he’d been barred from selling investments, according to the indictment.
The indictment did not name investors, but listed examples of Rodgers soliciting people in Lexington and Danville.
Taylor told jurors one person put up more than $1 million for investors in England.
Rodgers faces up to five years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove scheduled sentencing in December.