Michigan's top prosecutor is stepping up his criminal case against Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today amended his felony complaint against Chesapeake, adding twelve counts of false pretenses to the eight counts that he filed earlier this month. That brings the number of Michigan landowners Mr. Schuette claims were scammed by Chesapeake to 20.
Chesapeake also faces one count of conducting criminal enterprises and, in a separate action, two counts of anti-trust violations.
All of the charges stem from land dealings allegedly carried out by Chesapeake in Michigan in 2010. The false pretenses and criminal enterprise charges are based on claims by landowners that the oil and gas company reneged on commitments to lease property.
The anti-trust charges stem from allegations that Chesapeake and another energy company, Encana Corp., conspired in a 2010 Michigan land auction to avoid bidding up lease prices.
Encana, which was also charged by Schuette, announced that it had reached a $5 million civil settlement with Michigan last month.
Gordon Pennoyer, a Chesapeake spokesman, issued a statement in response to the latest developments in the case: "We believe this action has no merit and we will vigorously contest these baseless allegations."
A federal probe of the anti-trust allegations cleared Chesapeake earlier this year.