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Keston oil trader Bernard Langley jailed for four years over multimillion kickback plot
AN OIL trading fraudster from Keston who lived a “lavish lifestyle” of classic cars and jewellery has been jailed for four years following his role in a multimillion dollar kickback scheme.
Bernard Langley, 55, was sentenced on Friday after pleading guilty to engage in wire fraud in connection with a plot to overcharge a Houston refinery for shipping oil from Venezuela.
A co-defendant and fellow oil trader Clyde Meltzer, 65, of Houston and Livingston, New Jersey, also admitted the same charge and was jailed for five years.
Through a third man, Jonathan Barnes, they arranged for their companies to transport oil on tankers from Venezuela to Houston.
Barnes was an employee at LyondellBassell Industries, of which Houston Refinery is a subsidiary.
Houston Refinery imports most of its crude oil from Venezuela, with shipping a significant expense.
In exchange for Barnes agreeing to use their companies, Langley and Meltzer paid Barnes a third of the profits they received.
As a result, Barnes' incentive was to authorise Lyondell, which was unaware of the conspiracy, to pay approximately $82m (£52m) above market rates for the shipping in exchange for kickbacks from the individuals receiving the payments.
Langley and Meltzer controlled two of the bank accounts receiving the payments and used Swiss bank accounts to pay Barnes approximately $20m (£12m) in kickbacks.
Handing down the sentence, US District Judge Sim Lake described their actions as "flat out fraud" and said much of the money taken by the defendants had occurred after Lyondell's US subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection.
Judge Lake said: "So at a time when many employees lost years of deferred compensation, benefits and even their jobs, creditors and credit relationships of the company were harmed, and the remaining employees worked tirelessly to save the company, Meltzer, Langley, and Barnes used this money to live lavish lifestyles, adding insult to the substantial injury they caused."
He also noted the defendants bought fancy cars and Meltzer purchased more than $1 million in jewellery as a result of their "pure and simple fraud".
It has been reported in the US media that one of these vehicles included a 1957 Cadillac once owned by Frank Sinatra.
Langley and Meltzer were also ordered to serve a three-year-term of supervised release upon release from prison and to pay $57m (£36m) restitution.
Barnes, 56, of Bellaire, Texas, was sentenced in January to seven years in prison on fraud and international money laundering charges resulting from his involvement.
He had pleaded guilty to the charges.
Langley and Meltzer were arrested at the Galleria in Houston after a recorded meeting with Barnes.
They had previously agreed to orders forfeiting numerous assets obtained with proceeds of the kickback scheme, including luxury and classic cars, jewellery, funds at bank accounts in Switzerland and Monaco, real estate in Texas and Florida and investments in a Houston sports bar.
Combined with assets recovered from Barnes, assets valued at approximately $25 million have been forfeited to the United States.
A fourth co-defendant, Venezuelan citzen Alireza Etessami, is scheduled for trial on June 11.