The Times West Virginian

Today's Top News

January 5, 2009

W.Va. geologist indicted for role in alleged scam

BARRACKVILLE — An established West Virginia geologist is one of six men who have been federally charged with defrauding investors of more than $3 million.

Ray Garton, 58, of Barrackville, was indicted and arraigned in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Ky. after investigators uncovered an alleged scheme that cheated investors who bought shares in oil and gas drilling programs.

Garton is the curator of the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey Museum in Morgantown. He also operates a company in Barrackville called Mammoth Geophysical, which provides geophysical and scientific services to oil and gas explorers.

Last year, Garton helped craft a legislative resolution that made the Megalonyx jeffersonii the official state fossil of West Virginia.

Garton and the five other suspects, who work for oil and gas companies in Kentucky, have pleaded not guilty.

Each man was charged with one count of conspiracy, 20 counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud.

According to a federal indictment, Garton prepared geological surveys and brochures for Target Oil and Gas, of Albany, Ky., and Kentucky and Indiana Oil and Gas, of Danville, Ky.

Garton did not return phone calls or e-mails from the Daily Mail.

One of the people listed in the indictment as a victim of fraud says Garton showed him and his wife a supposed drilling site in West Virginia in January 2006.

Vincent Guerrieri, of Kensington, Md., said Garton met the couple at the Middletown Mall parking lot in Fairmont and then drove them to an oil well in Ritchie County in which they were investing.

Guerrieri told the Daily Mail that Garton took them to a site that had pipes sticking out of the ground. He said he wasn't sure if it was an actual well or not.

"We got to the well site and he showed me pipes," Guerrieri said. "I didn't know what to expect, anyway. In the old movies, there's oil gushing out of these tall superstructures built out of wood.

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