Two men involved in McKenzie County oil theft waive pretrial hearings

Oil theft
Oil theft(KFYR-TV)
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 11:03 AM CDT
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WATFORD CITY, N.D. (KUMV) - Two McKenzie County men whom police say were involved in an oil theft operation are heading to trial.

Joseph Vandewalker and Mark McGregor were scheduled to appear in court Thursday, but both waived their hearings. Court documents indicate Vandewalker has not reached an agreement with the prosecution, while McGregor’s attorney has requested a 3-day, 12-person trial. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit theft and dealing in stolen property.

Vandewalker, McGregor, Darrell Merrell and Michael Garcia were all arrested for stealing crude oil from their employer and selling it for a profit. Court documents say Merrell and Vandewalker would skim oil by manipulating the barrel counter while offloading, then deliver the leftover material to frack tanks south of Watford City. McGregor is charged with handling transportation and housing of the stolen oil, which would be sold to a marketer by Garcia. Court documents claim Garcia serves as the financial link between the producers and the drivers.

There have been at least 149 deliveries made from the stolen oil disposal site from November 2020 to March 2022 according to officials with Crestwood Midstream. A total of 34,199 barrels were delivered during that period, adding up to more than $2.4 million.

Jury trials are set for November 14 for Merrell, while Vandewalker and McGregor’s are scheduled for January 9, 2023.

Garcia is scheduled to make a change of plea December 1.