Conoco pipeline

Pipelines stretch toward the horizon on NPR-A land leased by ConocoPhillips. The company announced it’s found 300 million barrels of recoverable oil nearby. (Photo by Elizabeth Harball/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Two Anchorage men with ties to Fairbanks were indicted by a federal grand jury last week on multiple counts of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy for allegedly defrauding ConocoPhillips of more than $3 million.

Forrest Wright, 40, a senior drilling and wells planner at ConocoPhillips, and Nathan Michael Keays, an Anchorage police officer, allegedly worked together to bill Wright’s employer for nonexistent materials and labor from February 2019 to December 2019. Both men are originally from Fairbanks and attended West Valley High School together in the mid-90s.

Wright is also accused of bilking ConocoPhillips out of an additional $4.1 million through a second fake oil services company he set up in his father-in-law’s name.

According to a criminal complaint and a 34-count indictment filed in Anchorage federal court Sept. 15, Wright used his position at the company to get vendor status for Keays’ company, Eco Edge Armoring LLC, a residential spray foam insulation company with no experience in the oil and gas industry. Wright then instructed ConocoPhillips employees to approve payment of invoices submitted by Keays’ company.

Keays submitted 23 false labor invoices to ConocoPhillips for a total of $1,199,200. Four false materials invoices totaling $1,888,503 were also paid by the company, according to federal court documents. 

Keays paid $1,651,085 of the income he derived from the false invoices — or approximately 53% — to Wright’s company, Spectrum Consulting Services. Wright used the kickbacks for travel, restaurants, casinos, cash withdrawals, living expenses and the purchase of 17 residential homes in Las Vegas, according to the criminal complaint.

To overcome Keays’ lack of knowledge about the industry, Wright used his Hotmail email account to compose and send technical emails to Keays, who would copy and paste the content and send them to ConocoPhillips via his own Hotmail account.

Wright also sent Keays emails with ideas to help Eco Edge’s foam insulation website reflect its nonexistent oil and gas industry expertise. In an email dated March 10, 2019, and containing proposed website copy touting the companies “experience” and “proven results,” Wright said, “Just playing with ideas, we’ll need to get at least something (even basic at first) on the net so the foam business doesn’t keep popping up on Google ... kinda a red flag.” Keays replied, “Cool. I was trying to figure out what to say. That’s a good start,” according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators believe Keays later deleted more than 8,000 emails from his Hotmail account in an effort to remove evidence of fraudulent activities. 

The indictment also alleges that Wright, independent of Keays, created a company under his father-in-law’s name and registered it with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development in April 2019. Between June 2019 and September 2019, the company, DB Oilfield, submitted invoices for more than $4.1 million in materials that did not exist.

Wright’s father-in-law, who has not been indicted, sent 90 of the fraudulent proceeds to Wright’s company, Spectrum Consulting Services, according to the indictment.  

The Anchorage Police Department placed Keays on paid administrative leave Dec. 12, 2019, for 8½ months until placing him on unpaid administrative leave Aug. 27, 2020. Wright resigned from ConocoPhillips on Dec. 5, 2019.

ConocoPhillips filed a civil lawsuit Dec. 12, 2019, against Wright and his wife, Keays and his wife, and Wright’s father-in-law.

Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMcrime.