Oil traders plead guilty in Lyondell kickback plot
On Thursday October 20, 2011, 3:50 pm EDT
* Scheme involved shipping Venezuelan oil to Houston
* Traders Bernard Langley and Clyde Meltzer entered pleas
* LyondellBasell employee Jonathan Barnes pleaded earlier
HOUSTON, Oct 20, 2011 (Reuters) – Two international oil traders have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme that victimized LyondellBasell Industries’ Houston Refinery, U.S. Attorney Ken Magidson announced Thursday.
Bernard Langley, 54, of the United Kingdom, and Clyde Meltzer, 65, of Houston and Livingston, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a scheme to overcharge the refinery for shipping oil from Venezuela, according to a press release from the office of Magidson, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. The charge carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Restitution could total $57 million, as Langley and Meltzer also agreed to forfeit automobiles, jewelry, funds in overseas banks and real estate in Texas and Florida that were proceeds of the scheme, according to the release.Langley and Meltzer were set for sentencing on January 26 in U.S. District Court in Houston.
A third defendant, Jonathan Paul Barnes, 55, of Bellaire, Texas, a former LyondellBasell ship-chartering manager, pleaded guilty earlier and awaits sentencing scheduled for December 8.
The three were indicted in December and accused of overcharging the Houston refinery for hauling crude oil from Venezuela from 2007 through late 2009, with Barnes allegedly receiving $20 million – a third of the illicit profits – in kickbacks.
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