Blackjewel-related Bank Owes Casper Company More than $500,000
A bank that worked with the bankrupt Blackjewell LLC, owes a Casper company more than a half-million dollars for fuel it shipped to the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in June, according to a lawsuit transferred from Natrona County District Court to Wyoming federal court.
But Equitable Oil Purchasing Co., may be waiting a long time for relief, according to an order from U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson on Monday.
Equitable Oil's contracts for payment from the Virginia-based United Bank happened shortly before the Milton, W. Va.-based Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy business reorganization on July 1, which stopped creditors from demanding payments until the bankruptcy proceedings end, Johnson wrote.
The company named the bank and not Blackjewel as the defendant, but Johnson wasn't convinced that was appropriate, he wrote. "Although the plaintiff's complaint here suggests their action has no relationship or is tangential to the Blackjewel L.L.C. bankruptcy, that contention is not as clear as the plaintiff suggests."
What Equitable Oil Purchasing Co., a True company, more than suggests is that it had a contract with Blackjewel since Jan. 1 to provide diesel fuel and gasoline to the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Campbell County, according to the lawsuit filed by the Casper office of Crowley Fleck PLLP. Crowley Fleck attorneys did not return calls seeking comment.
The company would submit invoices the day after the fuel was delivered and Blackjewel would pay by electronic transfer the funds that day.
Blackjewel did that through United Bank until late June.
On June 27, Blackjewel sent Equitable Oil a notice that United Bank had transmitted $283,489.80 to the company, but the funds didn't arrive on June 28.
The company then told Blackjewel it would not supply fuel for June 28-30 because it didn't get paid.
So Blackjewel's CEO Jeff Hoops, Sr. -- who later left the company as part of the Blackjewel bankruptcy process -- offered to pay for the fuel with a credit card, according to the lawsuit. "Equitable Oil refused."
Hoops then asked Equitable Oil to supply fuel to the mines if he could verify the funds would be sent on July 1. The company replied that United Bank would need to directly confirm that for any sale to occur.
On June 28, bank Vice President David Mills contacted an Equitable official to confirm the bank would pay, and the official demanded written confirmation.
Mills responded by email that the bank would wire $283,489.80 to cover the past due payment.
Based on that promise, Equitable suppled $228,922.63 in fuel to the mines for June 28-30.
Early July 1, the Equitable official emailed Mills the instructions for the wire transfer.
Several hours later, the official asked Mills when Equitable would receive the money.
"Mr. Mills immediately responded, informing Equitable Oil that the Bank was reneging on and breaching its promises to remit all the funds it promised, stating: Rachel, Since our discussion on Friday a subsequent event has occurred which has cause a restriction in the account to be debited ... Unfortunately, we will be forced to wait until a [court] motion has been granted [to allow the transaction to proceed]."
That "subsequent event" was Blackjewel's filing for bankruptcy that day, which resulted in shuttering the mines in Wyoming and about 30 others in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. About 1,700 Blackjewel employees were sent home.
On July 5, Equitable Oil made a written demand to pay up.
In the lawsuit, Equitable Oil demands United Bank pay for the fuel shipments, plus interest and other relief.
United Bank, on the other hand, said it wasn't responsible.
"United Bank denies that its representatives made any promises to Plaintiff," according to its answer filed Aug. 15.