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Drilling for oil and natural gas in southeast Asia is lucrative business, especially if an investor pumps $10 million cash into your company

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George Atwater and Robert Miracle: Seattle Oil Tycoons Charged With $10 Million Fraud Scheme

oil-money 150x120.jpg
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Drilling for oil and natural gas in southeast Asia is lucrative business, especially if an investor pumps $10 million cash into your company and you don't actually do any drilling.

Such was the case with a pair of Seattle companies -- Laramie Petroleum and MCube Petroleum -- and their scheming executives, according to federal prosecutors. Recently unsealed court documents accuse George Atwater and Robert Miracle of duping investors, and pocketing cash rather than using it to pay for oil extraction in Indonesia.

The crooked deal allegedly occurred in 2006, two years after Laramie registered as a corporation with the Washington Secretary of State, and a year after MCube filed its paperwork. According to court documents, Miracle, the president and CEO of the companies, and Atwater, the secretary and treasurer, were passing themselves off as oil barons raking in big bucks from oil and natural gas extraction in Indonesia. In reality, however, the companies were bogus.

In March of 2006, Miracle and Atwater began wooing an investor -- identified in court documents by the initials P.R. -- for a loan, ostensibly to purchase two companies that owned the rights to oil fields on the Indonesian islands Halmahera and Rembang. The investor wisely asked for bank statements and other proof that the company was legit and knew how to turn a profit. But, unfortunately for him, Miracle and Atwater allegedly had a trick up their sleeve.

"Miracle instructed George Atwater to create altered copies of bank statements for MCube's account at Bank Niaga," court documents state, "that falsely showed that MCube had incurred drilling expenses that it had not, in fact, incurred, and had received oil and/or gas revenues that it had not, in fact, received."

The bank statements were purportedly doctored to show that the companies made more than $6 million from oil sales in early 2006, while spending another $3 million and change on drilling. Seeing what appeared to be a well-run, highly profitable business, the investor agreed to contribute another $10 million -- all which went directly to Atwater and Miracle's own personal accounts.

Miracle was eventually nabbed for skullduggery on an even grander scale: a Ponzi scheme. The 50-year-old Bellevue resident pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, and was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison last May. He admitted to collecting $65 million from investors (at least 48 of which were Washingtonians), while paying out $35 million. The money funded "a lavish lifestyle," prosecutors said, and the crook had to forfeit, among other items, a $38,000 diamond ring, and a $27,000 Italian painting.

Atwater was charged in June with one count of wire fraud, but the case was unsealed on February 28. Court records show he was ordered to surrender his passport on March 13.

George Atwater Fraud Charges

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