Bluffview Man Charged in Oil and Gas Fraud Case

A Bluffview man was among four accused of running afoul of securities laws when convincing people to invest in oil and gas interests.

In documents filed in late 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that Timothy Burroughs, Jay Holstine, John Griffin, and Michael Oswald Williams raised roughly $3.2 million from 50 investors through the sale of fraudulent and unregistered interests in two oil and gas ventures offered by Petro-bridge Energy LLC.

According to court documents, the government alleges that between February 2016 and March 2017, Burroughs falsely promised potential investors inflated returns and did not disclose that he had an extensive history of disciplinary actions for violating state securities laws.

The SEC said Burroughs hired Holstine, who had no oil and gas operations experience, as the “public face” of Petrobridge after a prospective investor shared Burroughs’ disciplinary history on a consumer fraud website.

“Burroughs and Holstine then revised corporate records relating to Petrobridge’s ownership and operation to remove references to Burroughs’s involvement,” the SEC said.

However, Burroughs continued to run the company’s day-to-day operations, preparing offering materials that the SEC said misrepresented aspects of the investment, including overstating acreage under lease and promising returns as high as 59%.

Burroughs and Holstine then recruited Griffin — who lives in Bluffview — and Williams to sell the offerings through nationwide cold-calling campaigns, the SEC said.

“Griffin and Williams, the two prima-ry Petrobridge salespeople, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales commission,” court documents said. “Neither one was regis-tered as a broker.”

Griffin, 48, was the vice president of Petro-bridge. In 2015, the South Carolina Securities Commissioner sanctioned him for omitting details in the sale of securities and acting as an unregistered agent.

Burroughs and Holstine live in Plano, and Williams lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Burroughs and Holstine are charged with violating federal antifraud provisions, while Williams and Griffin are accused of acting as unregistered brokers in violation of federal securities laws.

Pending court approval, Holstine, Griffin, and Williams have agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by agreeing to final judgements that forbid them from committing future violations and paying civil penalties and disgorgements. Griffin, who will pay $150,469.84 in disgorgement plus prejudgement interest and a $50,000 civil penalty, agreed (along with Williams) to certain securities industry and penny stock bars.

The case against Burroughs is headed to court, where the SEC is expected to seek permanent injunctions, disgorgements and penalties, and a bar from serving as an officer or director of a publicly-traded company.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, former Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy.

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