United States v. Smith, No. 12-5695 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The Smith brothers and others operated Target Oil, which conducted speculative resource drilling in Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Wells they represented as sure-fire investments often produced virtually no oil and many wells were never completed. From 2003 to 2008, Target Oil received about $15,800,000 in investor funds but, according to the postal inspector, distributed only $460,000 in royalties. The brothers were arrested and accused of conspiring with others to defraud investors of millions of dollars. Michael was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349, and of 11 substantive counts of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, and sentenced to 120 months in prison and ordered to pay $5,506,917 in restitution. Christopher was convicted by the same jury on seven counts of mail fraud and was sentenced to 60 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,652,075 in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that: the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions; the government offered evidence that constructively amended or varied the indictment; their sentences are procedurally and substantively unreasonable; one of the forfeiture judgments was excessive; the district court erred in excluding a defense expert witness; and items of evidence relating to the alleged fraud were erroneously admitted.