SHERIDAN — A Sheridan man pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges in 4th Judicial District Court Thursday morning.
Former Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Summit Gas Resources Ronald Barnes, 53, is accused of taking more than $1 million in royalties that did not rightfully belong to him when he worked in the energy company’s Sheridan office.
Barnes is charged with five felony-level counts of obtaining property by false pretenses and two counts of felony larceny.
The charges carry a combined possible sentence of 70 years in prison and a $70,000 fine on top of court costs and restitution.
The charges stem from an investigation began by Summit, formerly known as Pinnacle Gas Resources, Inc., when an internal audit suggested some gas royalty funds were being wrongly allocated to a company that did not rightfully own the well interests. Furthermore, it was found that Barnes was the sole proprietor of the company who had received the funds, though Barnes never disclosed his ownership in the companies even though it was his ethical obligation to do so.
Court documents indicate at one point during the company’s investigation, Barnes had admitted he was wrong and offered to pay the company $75,000 to have the matter dropped. However, the investigation eventually reached the Department of Criminal Investigation and found more mishandling of money, traceable back to Barnes, totaling $1,044,537.32.
The multiple fraudulent transactions ordered by Barnes began shortly after he began employment with the company in 2004 and continued until it was discovered in 2012.
The not guilty plea submitted by Barnes prompted Judge William Edelman to set dates for a pretrial conference and jury trial, which, by law, must occur within 180 days of the arraignment.