Sylvan Lake man says he needs $125,000 to fight fraud charges

It is alleged investors were bilked out of $2.6 million

A Sylvan Lake man accused of a multimillion-dollar oilpatch fraud complained in court on Monday that the allegations against him should have been settled nearly a decade ago.

Dane Michael Skinner is set to go to trial in 2021 on charges of fraud, uttering threats and laundering the proceeds of crime.

Skinner was in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench to update Justice Susan Bercov on his efforts to get a new lawyer.

He told the judge he had a new lawyer, but that she would not formally sign on until he had paid a retainer.

“We’re talking $125,000,” he said, adding he expects to have the money next month.

Skinner complained that his legal battles have cost him a huge amount of money and should have been resolved years ago.

“I’ve spent over $800,000 fighting the same charges I fought nine years ago,” he said. “This should have been done eight years ago. I shouldn’t be standing in front of this court right now.”

Seven weeks have been set aside for his trial, which is slated to begin in March 2021 in Red Deer.

Police allege Skinner was claiming to sell a product that made fracking operations at oil wells cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

An officer with the RCMP’s commercial crime unit said when the charges were announced in July 2018, that investors were pitched an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a revolutionary new fracking product.

The technology had never been tested in a commercial setting or at a real oil well, police allege. It is also alleged investors were wrongly led to believe the technology was about to be sold to another company, leading to a financial windfall.

Blackfalds RCMP allege at least 16 people sank money into the scheme and backers lost more than $2.6 million. The offences took place between December 2007 and February 2013.

Police, including Red Deer RCMP’s financial crimes unit, began investigating in 2013.

Skinner, then 53, was arrested and charged in July 2018.

The trial is expected to be complex. Five days were set aside in February 2020 for pre-trial motions around search-and-seizure issues.

Skinner said that he expects 200 witnesses to be called in his defence. Witnesses from the U.S. and as far as Africa are expected to testify that the technology he was promoting is being used in the industry.

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