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Oilman pleads guilty to royalty check scheme

A Fort Worth oil and gas man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal district court in Dallas to a scheme that involved fraudulent royalty checks to investors, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department.

James Retz was the president of several energy-investment companies including Big Rock Ranches, which operated out of Fort Worth office space along the Trinity River near Interstate 30 and University Drive.

From 1999 to 2005, he directed employees to solicit money from investors to buy 32 oil and gas wells in Texas and 210 wells in Wyoming. Retz then hid the "true well production data" from his employees and investors and instead used the investor money to make fake royalty payments, according to court documents.

"The fraudulent royalty payment checks, financial statements and newsletters were designed to mislead investors about the nature and value of their investments and, consequently, caused the investors to reinvest and to recommend to others that Retz' oil and gas well projects were sound investments," according to court documents.

Neither Retz nor his Big Rock Ranches were licensed as oil and gas operators by the Texas Railroad Commission, the Justice Department said.

Retz faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and paying restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 2.

Calls to Retz's attorney late Tuesday were not returned.