AZTEC — Two men have been accused in the past two weeks of siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diesel fuel from a BHP Billiton facility in Farmington.
Juel Kent Jordahl, owner of Tri Delta Iron and Metal, was charged June 16 in Aztec Magistrate Court with racketeering, larceny over $20,000, and receiving stolen property valued at more than $20,000, all second-degree felonies.
Roy "Levi" Swapp, a former BHP Billiton employee, was charged June 23 with racketeering and receiving stolen property valued at between $2,500 and $20,000.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office was first made aware of the alleged thefts in April after being contacted by two managers at BHP Billiton, according to an arrest warrant.
The managers told detectives that Jordahl had been accused by a subcontractor of stealing large amounts of diesel fuel from the San Juan Coal Company's mine, located about 15 miles west of Farmington.
Tri Delta Iron and Metal was contracted to recycle scrap metal at the mine, the warrant states. Subcontractor Rodney Wilkinson said that Jordahl and his employees would fill a 150-gallon tank with diesel from an on-site fueling station whenever they visited the mine. The fuel would then be transferred to a tank at the scrap metal recycler's property in Kirtland.
Wilkinson said two men, Swapp and another man who has not been charged, helped facilitate the thefts in exchange for fuel. According to the warrant, Swapp managed the scrap metal contract between Tri Delta and BHP.
Two former Tri Delta managers confirmed Wilkinson's story. Donovan Allred told detectives that Jordahl and other employees would steal fuel as often as five or six times a day. Allred said he felt uneasy taking the fuel, but Jordahl claimed that BHP Billiton agreed to provide fuel in the companies' contract.
The sheriff's office obtained several videos and still photos that allegedly show Jordahl stealing fuel. He was arrested on June 5 and requested an attorney.
Swapp initially told detectives that he believed Jordahl paid for the fuel. He later admitted that he knew Jordahl was stealing from the mine and said he received 100 to 150 gallons of fuel every few weeks.
Detectives estimate that Jordahl and his employees stole at least $394,695 worth of fuel since January 2011. Swapp is believed to have received between $8,750 and $11,200 worth of fuel during that same period.
The sheriff's office said in a press released that the total cost of the thefts was estimated at $480,000.
BHP Billiton said in a press release that the company has put in place preventive measures to discourage similar incidents from occurring.
"The sheriff's office exhibited tremendous professionalism and were diligent through every step of the investigation," New Mexico Coal asset president Pat Risner said in the release.
The company will continue to work with the sheriff's office as the case progresses through the judicial system, the release said.
Jordahl faces a maximum sentence of 27 years imprisonment and $30,000 in fines if convicted on all counts. Swapp could face up to 12 years imprisonment and $15,000 in fines.
The men are expected to appear at a preliminary examination on July 10.
Steve Garrison covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stGarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.