Clearfield County, PA District Attorney: Fraudulent deeds used to steal gas rights

Press release

July 15, 2010

Clearfield County (PA) District Attorney, William A. Shaw, Jr., announced that an investigation is ongoing to determine the circumstances surrounding the recording of fraudulent deeds filed at the Clearfield County Courthouse.

Shaw reported that “the investigation is focusing on irregularities that appear in several deeds claiming ownership of gas rights for nearly 2700 acres of property in the Morrisdale area, known as the Wigton Coal Reservation”.  Shaw stated that “the investigation began after the District Attorney’s Office received a complaint from a property owner seeking to enter a lease agreement with a gas company”.

Shaw said that “as a result of fraudulent deed recordings, land owners in the Morrisdale area seeking to enter lease agreements with gas companies may be required to file lawsuits to protect their legal interests.  Gas companies intending to drill wells are reluctant to enter lease agreements when ownership of the gas rights is clouded by fraudulent deed recordings”.

Shaw stated that, “the investigation has identified what appears to be fraudulently recorded deeds claiming ownership of gas rights.  The theft of gas rights may have an enormous economic impact on the true owners of the gas rights.  Land owners should not be required to spend thousands of dollars to file lawsuits to protect their ownership interests”.

Shaw is concerned that “many property owners may be making life altering decisions based upon inaccurate or false information”.  Shaw “encourages all landowners to exercise caution and seek the advice of legal counsel when entering into any type of agreement relating to gas rights”.

Shaw said that “any fraudulent recordings can impact land owners for many years if corrective action is not taken”. “Simply trying to buy or sell a house could become an issue if the fraudulent deeds are not identified and corrected”, Shaw said.

Shaw reported that the investigation has been referred to the Pennsylvania State Police, Woodland Barracks.  Shaw anticipates that criminal charges will be filed in the near future.

Shaw described the land identified by the investigation as generally surrounded by or touching the Deer Creek Road to the Allport Cutoff to the Morrisdale Allport Highway to the Deer Creek Road.

Anyone with knowledge or information about a crime is asked to call Clearfield County Crimestoppers at (800)-376-4700.