Arnegard man involved in oil skimming scheme sentenced to 3 years
WATFORD CITY, N.D. (KUMV) – The courts sentenced an Arnegard man charged with stealing oil to three years in prison.
Prosecutors say Joseph Vandewalker worked with three other individuals to skim millions of dollars’ worth of oil from a company and sell it for a profit. Vandewalker pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of more than $50,000 and dealing with stolen property.
McKenzie County State’s Attorney Ty Skarda said he wanted Vandewalker to serve five years. Skarda told the court he felt Vandewalker was downplaying the crime and not accepting responsibility.
“The defendant did not plan or expect his criminal conduct to cause serious harm to another person or property. I think blatantly stealing from someone is very clearly damaging someone’s property and the fact that he doesn’t acknowledge that is troubling,” said Skarda.
Vandewalker’s attorney, Phillip Becher requested Vandewalker not serve any time in prison because he wasn’t the largest offender of the group. Becher argued that Vandewalker has taken responsibility for his actions.
“I don’t want to leave the impression that Mr. Vandewalker wasn’t taking responsibility. That’s not the case at all. He very much understands this was a huge mistake and understands he needs to take responsibility,” said Becher.
Vandewalker made a statement to the court, apologizing for these actions.
“This is not an example I wanted to set for [my children] and I vow never to be a part in something as foolish as this again,” said Vandewalker.
Northwest District Court Judge Robin Schmidt decided three years would be the most appropriate. She said while Vandewalker wasn’t leading the operation, some court time was necessary.
“Actions have consequences. That’s the lesson you can teach your little girls,” said Schmidt.
Vandewalker was also ordered to pay $200,000 as restitution.
Michael Garcia, who prosecutors said handled selling the stolen crude, was sentenced to seven years back in December.
Mark McGregor and Darrell Merrell, who were also involved, have taken plea agreements. They are expected to be sentenced later this summer.
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