U.S. seizes 43 'drug-money' oil wells

Jan. 26, 2005 at 9:09 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. government has made an unprecedented seizure of 43 Pennsylvania oil wells it claims were financed with drug money, the New York Times said Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security money laundering investigation stemmed from the 1981 drug smuggling conviction of Paul Hindelang, who ran a major marijuana smuggling operation from Florida in the 1970's.

"Through a lot of years of work, a lot of evidence, and a lot of agents' time, we've been able to trace the money from the Channel Islands, to Monaco, to Switzerland and now to these oil fields in Pennsylvania," said Cynthia Keuthan, an investigator with the Department of Homeland Security in Miami.

Keuthan said the mineral rights to the 43 oil wells on 1,100 acres in the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania were bought in 1988 for about $800,000 that was provided by a Monaco business tied to Hindelang.

The wells are worth about $1 million, federal officials estimated. The Department of Homeland Security will own and continue leasing the wells for the time being, but it plans to do a full assessment of the property's value and then auction it off, officials said.

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