Feds execute search warrant on Pelican Refinery

Published: Nov. 9, 2007 at 1:05 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2007 at 9:47 PM CST
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A federal investigation is underway concerning an old refinery on old town road. Federal agents searched the Pelican refinery this morning with the help of Louisiana State Police. So far no word on why or whether they found what they were looking for.

Federal agents were all over the old refinery as state police haz mat agents assisted, providing a mobile command center and guarding the entrance. Agents brought a bolt cutter inside the plant, and at one point they appeared to sort of fan out across the property.

Years back, under other owners,  the oil refinery used to trigger a lot of complaints from residents who live on the river nearby.  More recently only the asphalt plant has been operating.  And employees appeared to be on the job during the agents' search.

Pelican was bought for $9 million dollars by Texas oil baron Oscar Wyatt and another investor when the refinery was in bankruptcy in 2004. More recently Wyatt figured prominently in the "Oil-for-food" scandal involving American oilmen paying illegal kickbacks to the late Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq -- in order to participate in selling Iraqi oil.

Wyatt was on trial in New York, but in October decided to plead guilty to wire fraud.  He is to be sentenced November 27th. The plea deal reportedly calls for Wyatt to spend no more than two years behind bars and forfeit  $11 million dollars.

Federal officials in Washington D.C. confirm only that search warrant was executed at the local refinery; they won't say whether this search is connected to Wyatt's Oil-for-food troubles or whether it stems from some unrelated environmental issues at the refinery near Lake Charles.

A check of DEQ records indicates the most recent environmental incidents at the refinery include a naptha spill in August of last year and a crude oil spill in December 2005. The naptha spill involved about 30 barrels that was released into a diked area around some tanks. Vacuum trucks were used to remove the liquid and return it to the tanks after an operator reportedly overfilled the tank. Company reports say the crude oil spill occurred due to a faulty seal on a motor.  In both the company reports to DEQ say spills were cleaned up.