A Dallas businessman who called himself the “Frack Master” has agreed to pay $23.8 million to settle charges that he bilked investors in oil and gas companies of more than $80 million, diverting some of the money to maintain a lifestyle of “decadence and debauchery.”
Christopher A. Faulkner allegedly created a fake persona as an expert in hydraulic fracturing or fracking to deceive people into investing in his Breitling Oil and Gas Corp. and two related entities, Crude Energy and Patriot Energy.
Investors funded a portion of Breitling’s projected drilling costs in exchange for a share in its profits but according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Faulkner “grossly” inflated the costs, generating millions of dollars in illicit profits by pocketing the difference between the projections and the actual cost.
The SEC’s civil complaint, filed in June 2016, effectively shut down Breitling. To settle the case, Faulkner agreed to disgorge the $23.8 million in investor funds that he allegedly used to pay personal expenses including lavish meals and entertainment, international travel, gentlemen’s clubs, and personal escorts.
He also pleaded guilty to parallel criminal charges of securities fraud, tax evasion and money laundering and faces up to 12 years in prison.
“As Mr. Faulkner continued to deceive his investors about drilling expenses and potential oil well output, he spent their millions of investment dollars on his lavish lifestyle, ” Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a news release.
“Let this case send a message that this type of egregious investor fraud will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she added.
Starting in 2011, Faulkner offered “turnkey” investments in more than 20 oil and gas prospects in several states, touting his expertise as the “Frack Master.” But according to the SEC, his only exposure to the industry was through website data hosting work he had performed for energy companies.
“The heart of the [fraud] involved knowingly lying to investors about how much it would likely cost to drill and complete the wells and how much the investments would likely earn,” the commission said in its complaint.