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Uintah County man pleads guilty to extorting nearly $110K from gas and oil companies

A Uintah County man pleaded guilty Monday to nine counts of extortion.

A Uintah County man pleaded guilty Monday to nine counts of extortion. (Chinnapong, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man has admitted to extorting about $110,000 from oil and gas businesses while working in Uintah County.

Leallen Blackhair, 45, of Fort Duchesne in Uintah County, pleaded guilty Monday to nine counts of extortion under color of official right, according to a news release from the United States Attorney's Office, District of Utah.

Blackhair was the compliance coordinator of the Energy and Minerals Department for the Ute Indian Tribe, the news release states. His job included issuing fines to oil and gas businesses working on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, in Uintah County, whenever those businesses were found in violation of their access permits and business licenses.

"Blackhair used his position to induce and attempt to induce multiple companies to pay him, personally, by offering to reduce a fine that would otherwise be assessed against them," the news release states.

Between August 2010 and May 2013, Blackhair extorted about 66 payments totaling around $110,000, "by requiring (the companies and individuals) to pay him a donation for tribal athletic teams, tribal athletic events and memorial funds, in exchange for his agreement to waive the payment of fines," according to the indictment filed in District Court.

His sentencing is scheduled for March 2023.

State court records show Blackhair pleaded guilty in April 2007 to making a false or fraudulent insurance claim, a third-degree felony, but that case was dismissed the following year.

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