Investment scam draws jail time

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

BARTLESVILLE — A local businesswoman was ordered to serve 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of criminal conspiracy which defrauded area investors — including several Osage County residents — of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Marya Gray joined her co-conspirator, former investment counselor Larry Joe Dearman, in admitting to the charges after separately waiving trials in Washington County District Court. The sentence was pronounced by District Judge Curtis DeLapp, who had sentenced Dearman to 10 years imprisonment on Aug. 6.

Federal investigators claim Gray, 51, and Dearman, 41, devised various schemes to bilk more than 35 clients out of over $4 million, mainly between 2009 and mid-2012 while Dearman was a senior investment advisor for a Bartlesville investment agency, The Focus Group. A considerable amount of the funds were converted to loans for businesses controlled by Gray.

Investments in one of Gray’s companies, The Property Shop, were supposed to be used to purchase distressed residential properties. However, documents filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claimed that no property was ever purchased and referred to The Property Shop as “a shell company.”

Dearman is a former Barnsdall resident and church music minister while Gray at one time operated a Pawhuska-area internet service company called Huskynet. The pair often combined to perform at weddings — with Dearman singing and Gray accompanying him on piano. Court filings also have indicated the two defendants squandered large amounts of investor monies gambling at casinos.

The case has resulted in at least 16 civil lawsuits, including two filed which were filed in Osage County. Jerry Quillen, a retired school adminstrator from Wynona, was the plaintiff of the original suit, which was filed in late 2012. Other civil cases were filed against Dearman and Gray on behalf of at least five other Pawhuska-area individuals and couples, as well as by an oilfield supply company in Hominy.

In April 2013, Washington County Associate District Judge Russell Vaclaw allowed for the sale of two Gray-owned businesses — Bartnet Wireless Internet and Quench Buds — for slightly over $1 million. Funds derived from that sale were turned over to the Washington County Court Clerk’s office, which directed payments to the Internal Revenue Service and Oklahoma Tax Commission (the two agencies divided more than $36,000) and for legal costs related to the transaction.

Left-over funds from the Bartnet/Quench Buds deal (which was reported to have been in negotiations prior to the filing of any lawsuits) were paid on a pro-rated basis to the parties in a suit which consolidated at least a dozen of the Washington County civil cases. More than 30 victims received payments from the funds generated by the sale of Gray’s businesses, as well as other property that was legally seized from both defendants.

The 10-year sentence for Dearman followed his guilty pleadings to three counts of embezzlement, three counts of conspiracy and four counts of obtaining money by false pretense. Those charges alleged that Dearman and Gray conspired to divert various investment funds for their own personal use.

Dearman was given credit for approximately 10 months he had spent in jail since he surrendered to authorities in October 2013, shortly after the criminal charges were filed by District Attorney Kevin Buchanan. In addition to prison term, he was ordered to pay more than $1,000 in restitution fees, fines and court costs.

Gray was sentenced to 10 years in an Oklahoma Department of Corrections on the first conspiracy charge and five years for the second count, with the two terms to be served consecutively. For the third conspiracy charge against her, Gray received a 10-year suspended sentence. Another 10-year suspended term on a fourth count is to be served concurrently with Count Three but consecutive to the first two counts. Three additional conspiracy charges were initially filed against Dearman and Gray.

Court records indicate that the state is to hold restitution in reservation. Fines in the amount $1,300 also were levied against Gray, who was remanded to the custody of the Washington County Sheriff Office to await transport to the ODOC. Prior to last Thursday, Gray had remained free on a $150,000 bond since the charges were filed.