FBI probes local $750K, 300 mineral acre fraud case
The Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents are investigating a family accused of illegally obtaining nearly $753,000 and rights to about 300 mineral acres in western North Dakota through information acquired from a Dickinson bank.
"Overall, five Bank of the West trust accounts, all under the control of trust officer Elizabeth Kolling, posted suspicious transactions," a recently unsealed affidavit shows.
Elizabeth and Walter Kolling, her sister, Ann Loran and Loran's son and his wife, Michael and Kari Loran received $752,657 illegally dispersed from trust accounts, according to affidavits.
Elizabeth Kolling was employed at Bank of the West in Dickinson until 2008, according to the affidavits.
Jim Cole, Bank of the West spokesperson, said the bank has investigated the matter as well.
Elizabeth Kolling began as a trust officer in 1987 at the bank when it was First National Bank, then Community First National Bank until Bank of the West acquired it, according to records.
The United States Attorney's Office is awaiting a response to a complaint filed to forfeit Dickinson and Richardton properties as well as mineral interests relating to the case, according to the U.S. District Court for the state southwestern division.
"These civil matters are related to an ongoing investigation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase said from Fargo on Friday. "The primary reasons for filing a civil forfeiture when there is a criminal matter is for the purposes of getting a restraining order or in some to freeze those assets in place."
However, no criminal charges have been filed against the accused.
The alleged fraudulent activity dates to 2002, according to the affidavits.
Elizabeth Kolling, who is also known as Betty Kolling, allegedly admitted she had illegally withdrawn money from an account and funneled it to Ann Loran, according to the affidavits. Elizabeth Kolling also allegedly admitted forging signatures on checks.
A relative of a victim reported problems with a trust account to the bank in June 2008, according to the records.
A review conducted by Bank of the West found several large withdrawals which appeared to be gifts, according to the affidavits.
Ann Loran used funds to pay for improvements to her home in Richardton in 2005 and 2006, according to the affidavits.
A complaint for forfeiture filed last year lists several items, including a residence and several vehicles and appears to have forfeited property purchased with the money fraudulently obtained, according to records.
"The federal government forfeits property that's either the proceeds of illegal conduct or the instrumentalities -- the facilitating property," Chase said. "Those are the two primary things that we forfeit and the reason that we forfeit ... is that we return money to victims."
Elizabeth Kolling is also accused of illegally obtaining mineral rights from a trust in Stark, Dunn, Mountrail and Golden Valley counties, according to the affidavits.
The mineral right deeds transfers to Walter and Elizabeth Kolling are dated Oct. 3, 2008 -- 16 days before the death of the owner.
However, it appears the deeds were notarized the day after the victim's death, according to the affidavits.
Within eight months of the owner's death, Walter and Elizabeth Kolling received more than $50,000 from oil companies for the mineral interest they paid $1,765 for, according to records.
"The five customers that were affected in this were paid back the amounts that the bank determined had been withdrawn, plus any interest or appreciation," Cole said.
Elizabeth Kolling allegedly concealed the fraudulent activity from bank officials, examiners and auditors, according to the affidavits.
"We've improved a number of our policies and procedures to insure this type of incident cannot occur again," Cole said. "We regret this incident as it does not at all reflect how we do business."
Elizabeth Kolling declined comment. Residences of the accused are not listed in the affidavits. Attempts to reach the Lorans were unsuccessful.
The defendants have 30 days from when the forfeiture was filed to respond, Chase said.
"If they do, obviously we go through regular civil law suit," Chase said. "If they don't, they default on the property."