PITTSBURGH—One of two men charged in a $2.4 million scheme to steal natural gas drilling rights from western Pennsylvania property owners has pleaded guilty.

Twenty-nine-year-old William Ray, of Monroeville, pleaded guilty to wire fraud before a federal judge in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and will return for sentencing Jan. 10.

He's charged along with 33-year-old Derek A. Candelore, of Jeannette, with forging signatures, deeds and other documents to acquire mineral rights to some 40 Washington County properties, which were re-sold to Marcellus Shale drilling firm Range Resources for $2.4 million.

Federal prosecutors say Range uncovered the scheme once the company realized its employees were negotiating with different people for drilling rights on some of the same parcels.

Candelore has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in November.


Advertisement