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3 sentenced in fake Bakken investment scheme

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- A federal judge has sentenced a California woman, her son and another co-defendant for their roles in luring investors to sink money in oil and gas projects that didn't exist in eastern Montana's Bakken oil patch.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon sentenced Suzette Gal to 10 years in prison on Monday in Great Falls. In May, a jury found Gal guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, investment fraud by mail and investment fraud by wire.

Her son, Andras Gal, was sentenced to six years in prison on the three counts, while co-defendant Steven Carpenter was sentenced to 15 ½ years.

They also were ordered to pay $675,406 in restitution.

Suzette Gal's husband, Mike Campa, previously pleaded guilty to the charges but is seeking to withdraw his plea. The Yorba Linda man says the sentencing guideline range — up to 20 years in prison on each charge — was significantly greater than he expected.

Haddon delayed Campa's motion to change his plea after Campa's attorney withdrew from the case.

Prosecutors say the fictitious energy projects promoted by the husband, wife, sons Andrus and Krisztian, Carpenter and Dana Yvonne Kent promised investors lucrative returns. Dozens of people across the country invested into the bogus projects, authorities said.

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.

A jury found Krisztian Gal guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, but his sentencing has been delayed. Kent was previously sentenced to 18 months in prison after striking a plea deal.

Campa and his wife also have been convicted of contempt-of-court charges for having a phone conversation on matters presented in evidence at trial. They were under court orders to not discuss the case. Suzette Gal received a six-month sentence on the contempt charge, to run concurrently with the rest of her sentence.