Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says an energy company cheated northern Michigan landowners out of oil and gas lease payments as part of a scheme to shut out its competitors.
The Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta reports the attorney general filed criminal charges against the company Thursday in the Cheboygan District Court.
The charges allege that Chesapeake Energy assured property owners that their mortgages were not an obstacle to signing leases. Those leases also kept other companies from obtaining drilling rights. The state says Chesapeake later cancelled the leases once its competitors lost interest, using the mortgages as a pretext.
Attorney General Bill Schuette says this happened eight times, but his office is looking for more victims. A statement from Chesapeake says the charges have “no merit,” and the company will fight them in court.
The state has already filed a criminal anti-trust lawsuit against Chesapeake. It says the company engaged in a bid-rigging scheme to tamp down the cost of oil and gas leases that were up for auction.