ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A senior ConocoPhillips Co. employee and an Alaska police officer are accused of convincing the oil company to pay more than $3 million for work never performed and materials never received.
Federal prosecutors filed wire fraud charges Wednesday against Forrest Wright and Nathan Keays, Alaska Public Media reported.
Wright was a senior drilling and wells planner at ConocoPhillips and Keays is an Anchorage Police Department canine officer.
Wright resigned after ConocoPhillips filed a a civil lawsuit in December seeking the return of funds. An FBI investigation related to the lawsuit led to the criminal charges.
The Anchorage police put Keays on paid leave in December after learning of the allegations. The department said Keays was placed on unpaid administrative leave Thursday.
ConocoPhillips claims the men embezzled nearly $7.3 million, while the criminal charges allege they stole about $3.1 million.
Authorities said Wright conspired with Keays to create the impression Keays’s insulation-spraying business, EcoEdge Armoring, could perform services for the oil firm.
Wright established EcoEdge as a vendor to ConocoPhillips and instructed Keays on how to submit fraudulent invoices, authorities said.
Keays had “zero knowledge of the oil and gas industry” and the pair provided technical emails to Conoco purportedly from Keays but composed by Wright, charging documents said.
The scheme involved charging Conoco for pipe inspections and filling out time cards for nonexistent inspectors, while also presenting EcoEdge as a vendor for a special, patented drill rig mat the company did not possess or provide, authorities said.
Wright and Keays have been friends since childhood and a yearbook from West Valley High School in Fairbanks shows the two attended the school together in the late 1990s, charging documents said.
An initial court hearing had not been scheduled by Thursday and there were no attorneys listed as representing either of the men who could comment on their behalf.