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Gas, oil case goes to trial

Man made cold calls to Oklahoma to collect money for land investments, then used the money for himself.

May 22, 2010|By Joseph Serna

A Newport Beach man who pleaded not guilty to stealing money from his oil and gas business' clients is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Thomas Labry, who had his Costa Mesa-based Cherokee Gas Systems Inc. shut down earlier this year by the Securities and Exchange Commission, pleaded not guilty May 3 to stealing more than $1.4 million of his clients' money between 2008 and 2009.

Labry is accused of using automated equipment to make cold calls to Oklahoma residents offering them pieces of land to develop oil and natural gas wells for $25,000 a piece. He collected more than $1.4 million from his clients then used the money on himself instead of land development, according to the SEC. He had promised clients an annual 35% return on their investment.

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A January court order froze Labry's and his company's assets. The government claims from December 2008 to December 2009, he withdrew more than $268,000 from the business account holding investors' money and cashed nearly $500,000 in cashier's checks made payable to other people.

Labry is scheduled to appear in Santa Ana's federal court June 7 for a pre-trial conference, with his jury trial scheduled to begin June 15 in the same location.

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