Jury says Vegas man bilked investors with Nigerian oil scam

By Ken Ritter, Associated Press

Anton Paul Drago passed himself off as an heir to a Shell Oil fortune, a disabled former U.S. Marine, and an engineer and oil industry expert with 30 years of experience and a plan to ship Nigerian oil to a refinery he envisioned in the Bahamas.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Anton Paul Drago passed himself off as an heir to a Shell Oil fortune, a disabled former U.S. Marine, and an engineer and oilindustry expert with 30 years of experience and a plan to ship Nigerian oil to a refinery he envisioned in the Bahamas.

But federal prosecutors say he was a con man who took victims' money, in amounts from less than $6,000 to $400,000, promising some that they could quadruple their money in two months.

"The defendant never exported one drop of oil from Nigeria, and none of his victims received legitimate profits from the scheme," Internal Revenue Service prosecutors said in court filings in the case against Drago.

Drago, 65, a Las Vegas resident who also used the name Evan Joseph Fogarty, was found guilty Wednesday of 10 charges including conspiracy, fraud, theft of government funds and submitting false Veterans Affairs claims.

His defense attorney, Kevin O'Connell, was out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment.

The government said Drago and a co-defendant, Joseph Rizzuti, formerly of Palm City, Florida, spent more than $1 million on golf, jewelry, travel and luxury purchases. The government said nearly $1 million more was transferred to banks in China. Rizzuti testified against Drago at trial.

Rizzuti, who also operated a company called Beacon Accounting Service, pleaded guilty to obstructing a separate IRS investigation and to conspiracy to commit wire fraud with Drago. He was sentenced in May 2013 to 80 months in federal prison.

Drago was taken into custody following his verdict, and U.S. District Judge James Mahan set sentencing for June 14. Drago could face decades in federal prison and millions of dollars in court costs and fines. He had been free following his indictment and arrest in August 2013.

The government said Drago and Rizzuti used a company called Rainmaker Services to bilk investors out of millions of dollars.

Jurors learned that from 2004 through 2012, Drago told investors their money would be used to fund the production and shipment of crudeoil from Nigeria to a refinery to be built in the Bahamas.

Drago said he needed investors because he spent his $500 million Shell Oil trust on the Nigerian oil investment deal.

None of the claims were true, the government said.

Drago did serve three years in the service in the 1960s, but he was found guilty of receiving thousands of dollars in monthly veterans' benefits after falsely claiming to have a debilitating military service-related knee injury, according to trial evidence. Prosecutors said he received a medical discharge in 1970 after injuring his knee playing basketball.

His schemes came to light after he tried in December 2011 to negotiate a fake $10 million international bill of exchange at a bank in Las Vegas, the government said.

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