White-collar crime took on a little different look when a con man came up with a scheme to help workers in the Bakken oil industry.

He conceived an idea for an indoor RV park and attracted a variety of investors by targeting their specific interests. His scheme was working—until they began to compare notes.

A plan takes shape

Ronald Johnson took a look at all the oil drilling and fracking activity going on in the Bakken region. He noticed how the workers were living in their RVs in indoor parks and developed an idea for building similar facilities for other workers. He sold the idea to a variety of investors by catering to whatever they wanted to see: sometimes the philanthropic aspect of helping workers, sometimes the financial success of other RV parks. Mr. Johnson told these people that he would begin by building parks in North Dakota. Instead, he used the money from investors to enrich himself.

The FBI and IRS team up

The investors, who had put anywhere between $200,000 and $800,000 into the indoor RV park idea began wondering what was being done with their money. Some of them got together and compared what Johnson had told them, which is when the FBI and IRS were brought in and an investigation began.

Everyone loses

A local criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the Bakken “boom town” phenomenon will tell you that an influx of people brings an influx of criminal activity. Sometimes, people are charged with a white-collar crime when they are innocent. However, Mr. Johnson is an example of someone who preys upon unsuspecting victims. He was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for money laundering and wire fraud, and his victims will never be able to recoup all the money they invested. The indoor RV park project never got off the ground, and everyone lost in some way.