The co-founder of oil services company Dakota Plains Holdings was indicted Wednesday in connection with an alleged stock scheme that involved fraudulent bonus payments of more than $30 million.
Ryan Gilbertson, of Delano, was charged by a federal grand jury in Minnesota with 13 counts of wire fraud stemming from a "complex" stock manipulation that occurred after Wayzata-based Dakota Plains went public in 2012.
Gilbertson's attorney said he will fight the charges.
"One day before the five-year statute of limitations would bar any charges against Ryan Gilbertson, the U.S. attorney has brought these unsupportable charges," said Gilbertson's attorney, William Mauzy. "The stale and meritless SEC alleged regulatory violations have been simply repackaged as a criminal case."
In October, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claimed that Gilbertson, 41, violated multiple federal securities laws in connection with Dakota Plains' public offering. Gilbertson denied those allegations.
Michael Reger, who co-founded Dakota Plains in 2008, settled separate SEC claims related to Dakota Plains, agreeing to pay nearly $8 million without admitting or denying the SEC's findings.
Gilbertson and Reger were best known for their roles with Wayzata-based Northern Oil & Gas, a publicly owned company that holds oil leases in North Dakota. Gilbertson was once its president, and Reger was its CEO until he was fired last year in the wake of the SEC investigation.
Dakota Plains, owner of a facility in North Dakota that loads crude into rail cars, eventually turned into an oil bust casualty and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December.
At Dakota Plains' inception, Gilbertson and Reger installed their fathers as figurehead executives to run the company, though the pair secretly controlled the company, the SEC said. The indictment of Gilbertson makes similar allegations, though it does not name Reger, referring instead to "Individual A."
Dakota issued notes to Gilbertson and Reger with generous terms, including bonus payments based on the price of Dakota Plains stock during its first 20 days of trading.
Gilbertson, a major Dakota Plains shareholder, personally bought $3 million of the notes, which carried a 12 percent interest rate, according to the indictment. Gilbertson and other noteholders would receive bonuses if Dakota Plains' average stock price exceeded $2.50 per share, the indictment said. The bonuses would increase with the stock's price.
Dakota Plains' stock popped to $12 in the first few weeks of trading, but then faded.
Gilbertson, "aided and abetted" by associates Douglas Hoskins and Nicholas Shermeta, manipulated Dakota Plains' stock price during its first 20 days of trading, according to the indictment. The stock's run-up triggered a bonus payment of $32.9 million to Dakota Plains noteholders. Gilbertson controlled about 40 percent of those notes, prosecutors said, and was entitled to more than $12 million in bonus payments.
Mauzy said that Gilbertson loaned millions of dollars to Dakota Plains "when it could not secure credit from any financial institution." Gilbertson received Dakota Plains' stock instead of cash in connection with his loans, and that the firm's stock is now "nearly worthless," Mauzy said.
Hoskins and Shermeta were each charged Wednesday in connection with the alleged fraud, respectively hit with seven and five counts of wire fraud. Neither could be reached for comment.
Hoskins, who lives at least part-time in Minnesota, was the player-manager for Gilbertson's polo team. Shermeta, of Wayzata, was a stockbroker for a Minneapolis company.
Shermeta in October consented to an SEC order finding that he solicited investors for Dakota Plains, but improperly brokered the sales through an unregistered securities firm instead of his employer.