Coal company trying to open new mine in Wyoming led by brothers convicted in “one of the largest tax fraud cases ever filed”.
Note: In recent years, landowners near Sheridan, Wyo., banded together with Powder River Basin Resource Council to protect their homes and ranches when the company Ramaco applied to open a coal mine in the Tongue River Valley. The operation would have threatened water quality on the Tongue River, and the operation’s blasting would have had serious structural impacts on homes and the surrounding land that has been weakened by decades-old mining. The company repeatedly failed to treat the landowners with the respect deserving of a neighbor. In August 2017, the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council sided with Powder River and the Tongue River Valley landowners when it ruled that Ramaco’s permit application was incomplete, flawed, and therefore ineligible to be granted–the first time this had happened in the history of the state of Wyoming. Despite this historic victory, Ramaco continues their push to develop a coal research facility in the Tongue River Valley, and has vowed to re-apply for a coal mining permit.
Written by Jill Morrison.
An investigation into the background of the primary individuals behind the proposed Brook Coal Mine and Ramaco Carbon reveal a disturbing history and serve as a cautionary tale for Sheridan County and Wyoming.
Ramaco’s principal officers, Charles Atkins who is the director of development for Ramaco Carbon and his brother, Randall Atkins who is the company’s CEO, both have a documented history of fraudulent business activity. In 1987, Charles Atkins was indicted and later sentenced in what the New York Times reported as “one of the largest tax fraud cases ever filed.” The Times story quoted former Manhattan US Attorney, Rudy Giuliani who said, “It if isn’t the largest case, it’s one of the largest.”
Charles Atkins was indicted and later sentenced in what the New York Times reported as “one of the largest tax fraud cases ever filed.”
At the time, Charles Atkins was the managing partner of a company called The Securities Group and he was indicted on 31 counts for “creating $1.1 billion dollars in bogus trading losses and interested expenses.” The Times story notes that Charles Atkins was referred to as “the boy wonder of tax shelters.” His company attracted prominent wealthy investors and produced what the government documented as millions of dollars in fraudulent tax deductions. In 1988, he was found guilty of 28 counts of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and of aiding and abetting the filing of fraudulent tax returns. He was sentenced to two years in jail and four years of community service.
Randall Atkins also apparently played a partnership role in The Securities Group, and he showed up in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings for the company in 1988. According to court documents, the court-appointed administrator initiated adversary proceedings against Randall Atkins for “breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, misappropriation of partnership assets and opportunities and violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations or RICO statute.” The bankruptcy court found Randall Atkins and others involved in the partnership liable for nearly $32 million. Randall Atkins appealed the ruling to the district court and lost. The case involved an elaborate New York real estate scheme, and the court found that Atkins and a partner were “guilty of conversion, unauthorized use of partnership funds for non-partnership purposes, usurping a partnership opportunity and of violating their fiduciary responsibilities to the partnerships.”
In the appeal, the district court upheld the judgment against Randall Atkins but found the other defendant innocent. The court documents state:
Under the circumstances, Atkins’ conduct directly violated his fiduciary duty as a partner of TSG (The Securities Group) and TMG (The Monetary Group) to refrain from personally profiting from the misuse of partnership assets. We therefore conclude that the record amply supports the bankruptcy court’s factual finding that Atkins wrongfully participated in the transaction. Additionally, we affirm the court’s conclusion that such participation constituted a breach of fiduciary duty by Atkins.
Charles and Randall Atkins have made a lot of promises to local Sheridan officials and citizens, but their past actions and business history might be the real indicator about whether we can believe those promises.