Oil dealings prompt investigation of N.D. tribal chairman
A former federal prosecutor has been hired to investigate the dealings of a tribal chairman thought to have been the target of a North Dakota oil speculator with ties to a man shot dead in his home on Spokane’s South Hill.
Stephen Hill Jr., a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, was chosen by the Three Affiliated Tribes business council to head a probe into the businesses of its chairman, Tex Hall, according to the Bismarck Tribune. Spokane authorities mention Hall in court documents as a business partner of James Henrikson, an oil speculator and convicted felon currently in federal custody on firearms charges. Henrickson is suspected in the murder-for-hire plot that killed Doug Carlile on Dec. 15. He has not been charged.
Police arrested Timothy Suckow for the shooting. He is charged with first-degree aggravated murder.
Following Suckow’s arrest in Spokane, federal agents raided Henrikson’s Watford City, N.D., residence and arrested him for owning guns as a felon. Investigators have indicated other charges are pending and an affidavit filed by Spokane police investigators in January said detectives “believe (Carlile’s death) was a murder for hire at the direction of James Henrikson and the shooter was Timothy Suckow.”
DNA found on a glove left at Carlile’s home off South Garfield Road, linked back to Suckow, according to investigators.
A few weeks after Henrikson’s arrest, Hall released a statement denying “affiliation with any gangs” and saying he was cooperating with investigators in Henrikson’s case. He did not specifically address business ties to Henrikson nor did he comment on a federal investigation reportedly underway into allegations Henrikson defrauded Hall and Maheshu Energy, an oil subcontractor founded by Hall in 2007 to lease mineral rights on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
Henrikson and Carlile were introduced by a mutual business associate and had entered a joint venture for 640 acres of tribal land near Watford City. The two had a falling out, according to Carlile’s family, and several witnesses reported hearing Henrikson make threats against Carlile and his family in the months prior to the Spokane man’s death.
Calvin Grinnell’s family was one of the landowners informed that the mineral rights on his tribal property had been leased through the tribe to Kingdom Dynamics, a trucking company registered in Carlile’s name. Grinnell, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said he met with Carlile on several occasions last year and initially the businessman was excited about drilling.
“He came across as very motivated,” Grinnell said. “He said, ‘We’re going to do this. We’re going to drill on your mom’s land.’ ”
Carlile was still enthused about the prospect last spring, when he toured the pasture lands that belonged to Grinnell’s family. But the summer came and went without any movement on the project, Grinnell said.
Carlile last called Grinnell in early December, about a week before his death. Grinnell said he was told Carlile was having trouble getting his financing in order, but that he was planning to resolve those issues soon. He gave a deadline of Dec. 15, Grinnell said, the night Carlile died.
Grinnell learned of the shooting on the Internet several weeks later, he said.
The tribal business council, which Hall leads, voted to investigate Hall through Hill’s firm, Dentons LLP.
The Bakken shale oil fields have been targeted by federal law enforcement agencies for investigation. The FBI has begun pulling records on Hall’s business dealings, according to the Bismarck Tribune, and the tribal council decided their own independent investigation was necessary as well.
Tribal council Vice Chairman Fred Fox said the tribal council decided to bring in a third party in fairness to Hall.
“The council had recently received information, including recent media accounts related to a business partnership with Henrikson, that raised issues regarding Chairman Hall that we felt needed an independent review. However, it is important for the integrity of our tribal government and all our tribal members that we get to the bottom of this story,” Fox said.
Bismarck Tribune reporter Lauren Donovan contributed to this report.