Central Alberta man charged with fraud in $2.6M fracking invention investigation

File photo of a worker tending a well head.
File photo of a worker tending a well head. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

A central Alberta man was arrested and charged this week in a multi-million dollar fraud investigation into a so-called fracking invention that was touted as being revolutionary to the oil and gas industry — but RCMP said it instead left over a dozen people out of large sums of money.

The alleged offences occurred over the course of six years, between December 5, 2007, and February 28, 2013, in Lacombe. It involved two numbered companies (1518869 Alberta Ltd. and  1367158 Alberta Ltd.) as well as N.E.X.T. Legacy Technologies Ltd.

RCMP alleged 53-year-old Dane Skinner misrepresented and advertised a “revolutionary fracking product,” which resulted in lucrative financial gains.

READ MORE: Fracking fluids cause ‘significant’ harm to fish: University of Alberta study

Hydraulic fracking involves pumping high-pressure fluids underground, which creates tiny cracks in the rock and releases natural gas or oil held inside.

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A promotional video posted to YouTube in 2012 (see below) claimed the product would boost the oil industry and save the environment, by not using toxic materials. The video claimed the product was a non-toxic organic compound that only required a small amount of water to work.

Constable Bill Lewadniuk with the Red Deer RCMP Financial Crimes Unit said the company claimed it could do the work of a traditional fracking setup with one truck in an environmentally conscious way. However, Lewadniuk said the product wasn’t tested at an industrial level in order for it to back up the claim.

READ MORE: Alberta RCMP charge two people in complex multimillion-dollar fraud case

Several news articles and a promotional video for the product claim a man named Darren Wiltse was the CEO of N.E.X.T. Legacy Technologies Ltd., however, RCMP said he is not one of the accused in their investigation.

In 2012, the Red Deer Advocate reported a man, who didn’t want to be identified, invented the N.E.X.T process after coming up with the idea about a decade prior. The story claimed the company name “N.E.X.T” was derived from the term “non-hydraulic exothermic/kinetic energy technology.”

RCMP allege the accused was in control of all three companies and had other employees following his direction.

Police said several victims were enticed to invest in his company and losses of over $2.6 million were reported.

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RCMP said there are at least 16 victims — although more could still come forward — and the highest amount lost by one investor was $750,000. Some victims also took out loans in order to invest in the invention, Mounties said.

In September 2013, a complaint was made to Blackfalds RCMP and police began investigating. Several officers from various units, including the Red Deer Financial Crimes Unit, worked together for nearly five years on the investigation.

READ MORE: Unsuspecting investors attend fake seminar organized to raise fraud awareness

On Wednesday, Dane Michael Skinner of Sylvan Lake, Alta., was arrested and charged with fraud, laundering proceeds of crime, and two counts of uttering threats. Lewadniuk said the uttering threats charges stem from some alleged threatening text messages sent to several investors in 2013.

Police said none of the companies involved are in operation anymore, as they went into receivership.

Lewadniuk said the “extremely complex” investigation involved going through a vast amount of information, and a prosecutor out of Calgary, who specializes in economic crimes, has been assigned to the file.

“This fraud was very elaborate, and consequently, our investigation has been very elaborate and has involved substantial resources and time,” Lewadniuk said. “We hope that this successful outcome brings a sense of closure to the multitude of victims affected by this crime.”

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READ MORE: Red Deer woman charged with stealing $1M from ATB Financial in Sylvan Lake

Skinner has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court in Red Deer on Aug. 8.

Blackfalds RCMP said if anyone feels they may have been a victim of this fraud, or any other fraud, they should report it to their local police station.

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