- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A judge sentenced a California man Thursday to 30 years in prison and ordered him to repay more than $5.1 million to victims duped into putting their money into nonexistent oil-and-gas projects in Montana and a gold mining scheme in Arizona.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon told Yorba Linda resident Mike Campa, 55, that he was imposing the lengthy sentence because Campa had spent his adult life defrauding others and the judge believed “would take it up with great vigor” once more if back on the street.

Prosecutors say Campa was the ringleader of a group that included his wife, her two sons and two others, that bilked more than 50 investors out of more than $670,000, with promises of big returns from fake energy projects in the Bakken oil patch.

Campa pleaded guilty last year, while the five other defendants were convicted by juries.

Before handing down his sentence, Haddon allowed Campa to make a statement. Campa unleashed an unrepentant tirade in which he called his previous federal public defender ineffective and blamed the federal government for misinformation and intimidation that led to his family’s convictions.

Once the truth comes out, he said, “I pray to God the guilty will be held accountable.”

His attorney, Mayo Ashley, filed a notice of appeal after the sentencing hearing.

Campa pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, investment fraud by mail and investment fraud by wire. He was refused a request to withdraw that guilty plea after finding the sentencing guideline range was higher than he expected.

Prosecutors say the fictitious energy projects promoted by Campa, wife Suzette Gal, her sons Andrus and Krisztian Gal, along with Steven Carpenter and Dana Yvonne Kent promised investors lucrative returns.

To make the story more believable, the defendants presented investors a copy of a 2006 letter from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs approving three oil and gas leases on land owned by a Fort Peck tribal member. The leases were canceled in 2007, but authorities said Campa and the others continued to solicit investors for another five years.

Campa must join the others in repaying those investors, Haddon ordered.

In addition, Haddon ordered Campa to repay another $4.5 million to a man who had invested in what was supposed to be a huge gold mine near Quartzsite, Ariz.

There was no mine, only mining claims in an area without enough water to produce the amount promised, said Phoenix-based U.S. Bureau of Land Management chief mineral examiner Matthew Shumaker, who participated in that investigation.

The Arizona Corporation Commission in May 2013 ordered John McNeil, Peter Pocklington, the former owner of the Edmonton Oilers, and their affiliated companies, Crystal Pistol Resources and Liberty Bell Resources, to pay $5.1 million for committing securities fraud in connection with the gold mining venture. They agreed to the order but did not admit or deny the commission’s findings in a subsequent settlement.

No arrests were made, and Ashley said Campa was only a salesman in the operation and did not run it. The $900,000 Campa made was commission for the $4.5 million investment he brought in for the gold mining scheme.

Haddon declared Thursday that the Arizona operation was a fraudulent scheme that showed conduct relevant to the Montana case and would be factored into the sentence. Plus, because the $900,000 Campa made in the Arizona scheme was mixed with the money from the Bakken scheme, the $4.5 million from that investor would also be included in the sentence.

Other factors in the sentence included Campa’s two convictions in mail fraud in the 1990s.

Campa and his wife also were convicted of contempt-of-court charges for having a phone conversation on matters presented in evidence at trial. Campa was sentenced to six months for that charge to run concurrently with the rest of his sentence.

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