Monday, August 27, 2018

Fracking - Trusting in a fraud

Chris Faulkner spent 40 minutes educating UK parliament’s Welsh affairs committee about the Texas embrace of hydraulic fracturing, including the marvel of horizontal drilling in urban areas. In the autumn and winter of 2013, the so-called he was one of 16 witnesses who appeared before the committee, which was considering the economic and environmental impact of drilling potentially thousands of shale gas wells.  In June 2014, the MPs issued a cautiously supportive report that cited Faulkner five times.

According to the US government, Faulkner was not, in fact, much of a “technical animal” with a “scientific oil background”. He is a fraudster who ran an investment scam worth between $60m and $80m. Hosting websites for oil and gas companies was Faulkner’s only experience with the energy sector before 2009, federal authorities claim. In the mid-2000s, he was an internet entrepreneur listed as the president of a website that sold adult movies and a company called Porn Toys Corp.

In June this year, Faulkner was arrested by federal agents. Charged with securities fraud, mail fraud and illegal monetary transactions, he could face decades behind bars. Deemed a flight risk, he is currently detained in a Texas prison. When arrested he was carrying 10 1oz gold bars, gold coins, $10,726 in cash, two new cellphones and his birth certificate. Ordering earlier this month that Faulkner be held without bond, a judge in Dallas, Sidney Fitzwater, wrote that the circumstances were “remarkably suspect”, adding: “It is reasonable to draw the inference that Faulkner had been making plans to flee to Lebanon.” 

At the time he addressed the parliamentary committee, Faulkner had for a year been under civil investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the FBI initiated a criminal inquiry and seized documents and data from the offices of Faulkner’s company, Breitling, in Dallas. Prosecutors contend that the 41-year-old started and ran oil and gas companies through which he acquired interests in prospective wells in several US states. They say he cited spurious geology reports and vastly inflated potential production and cost estimates: a $2.6m well was pitched as a $25m project. It is claimed he pocketed the difference between amounts raised from investors and the true costs of exploiting the wells. Faulkner allegedly spent tens of millions of dollars of investors’ funds on extravagant personal expenses, some for escort services – he called one credit card the “whore card”. Court documents claim that in 2014 he spent more than $220,000 on private jets, $70,000 on clothes and $200,000 on nightclubs, including $24,000 at a burlesque club in London’s Soho.

Sharon Wilson, a Texas environmental activist  who Faulkner sued unsuccessfully for defamation, said she tried without success to contact some British politicians via Twitter to warn them.
“It was not that hard to look up who he really was,” she said.

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