Crime & Courts

Trial underway for former APD officer charged in ConocoPhillips embezzlement scheme

A federal trial is underway this week for a former Anchorage police officer accused of conspiring with a ConocoPhillips employee to embezzle more than $3 million from the oil company in 2019.

Nathan Keays, 44, is facing 29 charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, and engaging in monetary transactions with property obtained through unlawful activity. Keays and former Conoco employee Forrest Wright were indicted in August 2020.

Wright pleaded guilty in 2021 to 34 charges including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, and engaging in monetary transactions with property obtained through unlawful activity. He is expected to testify during Keays’ trial, attorneys for both sides said Monday. Wright is scheduled for sentencing in May.

During opening statements Monday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, federal prosecutors described the case as the result of Keays’ greed while his attorneys said he didn’t knowingly defraud ConocoPhillips but was instead deceived by Wright, his childhood friend.

Wright worked as a senior drilling and wells planner with the oil company and was responsible for handling contract executions, federal prosecutor James Klugman said during opening arguments Monday. Prosecutors showed a series of email exchanges to the jury that depicted the men collaborating to transform the online appearance of Keays’ home winterization business to a company with experience in the oil and gas industry.

Wright then instructed Keays to send emails to his work account so they could secure a contract, according to the exchanges presented to the jury Monday. Over a period of 10 months in 2019, Keays and Wright submitted fake invoices for work that was never done and materials that were never purchased or delivered, Klugman said.

When Keays received payments from ConocoPhillips to his business, he would write a check for half the amount to a company Wright set up to personally collect half of their profits, Klugman said. In total, the men scammed ConocoPhillips out of more than $3 million, he said.


During their opening arguments Monday, Keays’ attorneys described Wright as the mastermind behind the scam.

Keays believed Wright was working under him as a subcontractor and actually completing the work and purchasing the materials described in the invoices, defense attorney Lisa Rosano said. Keays was shocked when he was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, she said.

In a separate plot, Wright also scammed ConocoPhillips of another $4 million, Rosano told the jury. He lied to his wife and father-in-law about a business opportunity, then posed as his father-in-law online to create a chain of emails to justify awarding contracts to the business for materials that did not exist, she said.

Wright pleaded guilty to all charges in 2021. His plea agreement states that prosecutors will recommend a sentence in the low range of the guidelines. Rosano told jurors he is “buying his freedom through testimony” for the prosecution during Keays’ trial.

Wright resigned from ConocoPhillips in early December 2019, as the investigation came to a head. He and Keays were interviewed by the FBI that month, according to a sworn affidavit written by an agent.

The same day the men were interviewed, ConocoPhillips filed a civil lawsuit against Wright, Keays, and several of their family members.

Keays agreed to a settlement that included liquidation of his retirement account, according to filings in the case. He was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2022. He had also sold property purchased with the funds and used that money to repay ConocoPhillips, according to a stipulation filed in the case. Wright was ordered to repay more than $4.2 million, according to judgments filed in the case.

Keays’ trial is expected to last two weeks, said Reagan Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at