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Scammer of the Week: The Oil & Gas Networking Impresario

It's only Monday, and I believe we've already found our scammer of the week: The founder of two oil and gas “LinkedIn”-type websites.

David Kent, 40, has been arrested on charges that he hacked and stole information from his own former website, a networking site for those in the energy community, appropriately dubbed Rigzone.com. He was accused in a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court of stealing more than 500,000 user resumés from Rigzone.com in order to grow a second site that he still owns, a networking destination called Oilpro.com.

But here’s where it gets weird: Kent had originally created Rigzone.com himself. He sold it for $51 million back in 2010 to DHI Group—a nice chunk of change. He took some of that and started up another version, this time called Oilpro. Never mind that selling off one successful version and then growing a new one is an approach to the market that can only be called hydra-like in its propagation characteristics. What’s strange is why he thought that seeding a niche market with a weak alternative to an already dominant incumbent (that he himself created) was a good idea. On the surface, it makes very little business sense.

Until the bigger picture emerged in the federal filings: According to the FBI, Kent was also trying to sell Oilpro to DHI Group.

As expected, Oilpro isn’t nearly as successful as Rigzone. The complaint said that he carried out the hack in order to boost the membership of the new site, to make it more attractive to the potential buyer. In fact, the authorities said, this was his intent all along—to build a smoke-and-mirrors company with the express purpose of selling hacked info back to an unwitting DHI Group.

So to nutshell this: Kent created, sold, then hacked his former site in order to populate a second site in order to sell it to the new owners of the first site. Make sense?

Of course, as soon as DHI Group did a de-dupe of the profiles in the combined company the jig would have been up: It would have found that it essentially just paid millions for the same data that it already had. In fact, that would have been likely to come out in any due diligence of the deal.

In the end, the jig was up anyway: FBI arrested Kent in Houston on Wednesday morning on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud, agency spokeswoman Kelly Langmesser told Reuters.

Photo © Marco Prati/Shutterstock.com

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