Murder-for-hire trial brings former TAT chairman to witness stand

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Pump jacks on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. PHOTO BY TALI NAUMAN/Native Sun News
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By Jodi Rave Spotted Bear
Originally published in the Native Sun News

RICHLAND, Wash. –– A motley crew of court witnesses ranging from heroin dealers, thieves and oil investors, were among dozens of witnesses that helped unravel the story of two murders tied to a Fort Berthold Reservation tribal oil business and land deal. A prosecuting U.S. attorney asked former Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex “Red Tipped Arrow” Hall, a government witness in the murder-for-hire trial in a Washington courtroom how he got into the trucking business. “James Henrikson approached me,” said Hall. “He came to my house and asked for 10 gallons of gas.”

The former TAT chairman was one of three key Fort Berthold citizens called to testify in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington during a trial that would put Hall’s former Bakken oil business partner in prison. On Thursday, Feb. 25, a jury found Henrikson guilty of two murder-for-hire killings, including Doug Carlile of Spokane and Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke bludgeoned to death on Hall’s property and disappeared near the reservation community of Mandaree, N.D.

“I was happy to hear there was finally an end,” said Lissa Yellowbird-Chase who cried when the jury pronounced Hendrickson’s 11-count guilty verdict. She has led several searches around Mandaree for Clarke’s body, which still hasn’t been found. It’s Henrikson’s last measure of control by not revealing the burial site, she said. “He’s a sociopath. He’s the kind of person who likes to have the last say.”

Henrikson will likely be sentenced in May. The trial in Richland, Wash., began Jan. 26 and ended Tuesday, Feb. 23. In addition to Hall, other witnesses from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation included Peyton Martin, daughter of Hall’s girlfriend Tiffany Johnson, and Steve Kelly, owner of Trustland Oilfield Services, a business registered with the TAT Tribal Employment Rights Office. Henrikson, now 36, arrived in North Dakota in 2011 already a five-time convicted criminal. Leading up to his recent conviction, he also used the alias names of Cole Johnson, James Hendrickson and James Vanderbilt.

Like many, he arrived in North Dakota hoping to cash in on the oil boom. Oil has catapulted the national ranking of millionaires in North Dakota from No. 43 in 2012 to No. 20 in 2014, according to Phoenix Marketing International. David Thompson of Phoenix Global Wealth Monitor attributes the phenomenal rise of North Dakota millionaires to the power of the oil industry’s ability “to quickly create wealth.”

The Fort Berthold Reservation sits atop the Bakken and Three Forks shale oil formations. An estimated 30 percent of oil drilled in North Dakota comes from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. Relevant information and reported material comes from court testimony in Richland, Wash., affidavits, interviews and an independent investigation led by Missouri-based Law Firm – a legal probe initiated by the Three Affiliated Tribes Tribal Business Council to view Hall’s misuse of power as chairman. Hall complied on a limited basis with the 2014 investigation with his lawyer noting the chairman “would answer only questions regarding his relationship with James Henrikson and Sarah Creveling.”

As chairman, Hall’s Maheshu Energy LLC business stood in competition with other Tribal Employment Rights Office licensed companies, including those owned by TAT tribal citizen Steve Kelly. Hall was asked about the competition with Kelly to work in the oil-related Bakken business boom during the Henrikson trial. “I think Steve felt we were taking contracts from him,” said Hall. Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed said: “Did you direct Henrikson to kill Steve Kelly?” Hall: “Absolutely not.” Kelly had been working with Henrikson and Sarah Creveling, ending their embittered business ties with a Tribal Employment Rights complaint in December 2011.

By then, Henrikson had already knocked on Hall’s door wanting Hall to work with him in trucking business. Hall said he met Henrikson and Creveling in November 2011. The seemingly affable couple arrived in North Dakota from Texas and quickly won Hall over. The month after the two men met, their families spent Christmas together. On Jan. 3, 2012, Hall entered into a joint business venture uniting his Maheshu Energy LLC with Blackstone LLC, a Henrikson-Creveling company with roots in Texas. The chairman agreed to lease his shop at a junction between Mandaree and Watford City, N.D. for $5,000 a month, but he had no written lease agreement, according to Dentons independent investigation.

By the end of January, Hall had gotten sick from a burst gall bladder. He was in a hospital in Rapid City, S.D., and then transferred to Bismarck, N.D. and later to Minneapolis. A second contract was signed Feb. 1, 2012 between Maheshu and Blackstone after Hall learned Creveling was the actual owner of Blackstone, not Henrikson. In an interview with the New York Times in late December 2014, Hall blamed Henrikson for cementing their business deal when he was “ill and distracted, bringing flowers and a contract to his hospital room to be signed. ‘I got ripped off and taken advantage of,’” said Hall.

During Henrikson’s trial, however, Creveling and Hall both said an updated contract had not been signed in the hospital. Hall acknowledged the couple visited him the hospital where Creveling brought him a quart of whiskey, not a contract. “I’m not sure why I got a quart of whiskey,” Hall said. Hall said he did provide a verbal agreement to make a technical change in the contract he signed before he got sick. He had his girlfriend Tiffany Johnson, Maheshu’s chief financial officer at the time, sign a new contract on his behalf. Henrikson’s defense attorney Todd Maybrown asked Hall if he told a Spokane grand jury in July 2014 that he was not the person who signed the contract.

Hall: “I don’t remember.” Maybrown: “When did you tell the government that was not your signature?” “About two weeks ago,” said Hall from the witness stand on Feb. 17. As the Blackstone-Maheshu business grew so did casual relations between the Hall and Henrikson families. Hall, Tiffany Johnson, Henrikson, Creveling and other family members vacationed together in Hawaii in October 2012 after Hall recuperated from his hospitalization.

Double-dealing duo

Creveling had been operating Maheshu Energy for Hall by February 2012. He created the company in 2007 after he lost his bid for what would have been a third consecutive term as tribal chairman. In the beginning, his company sought oil leases before moving into the trucking business. Creveling testified Maheshu Energy’s income increased substantially once she and her husband brought their trucks to Hall’s property.

She said the business grossed about $2 million in profits in 2012. A former employee, Elliott Carney, noted on his LinkedIn account that Blackstone revenue grew by $2 million a month from November 2011 to August 2012, which amounts to $20 million in 10 months. Blackstone had contracts for trucking services with Continental Resources, Kodiak Oil and Gas, XTO Energy and Petro Hunt. Their primary contract was with Maheshu Energy. As profits grew, so did the appetite for spending.

Creveling said she spent hundreds of thousands of company money on personal property while earning a $70,000 salary. Creveling and Henrikson bought a house in Watford City N.D. near the Maheshu Energy property. She said her husband also told her to buy expensive jewelry and a Bentley, a luxury car made in Britain.

But Creveling and Henrikson wreaked havoc upon Hall who was chairman of the then-increasingly rich Three Affiliated Tribes. Shortly after they started working for him, one of their employees mysteriously disappeared from the shop on the chairman’s property. Posters about the disappearance were plastered in the area. By end of November 2012, Hall said he didn’t want much to do with them; however, he was still in business with Blackstone.

Part II

RICHLAND, Wash. –– In U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington, former Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex “Red Tipped Arrow” Hall was asked about the friendly nature of his business relationship with James Henrikson and Sarah Creveling, including trips to Las Vegas and Dallas. Hall said he was “shocked” to see the other couple in Dallas for the Nov. 28, 2012, Thanksgiving Day game between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. He said it was a coincidence they were on the same plane and both attended the NFL game. Defense attorney Maybrown asked Hall if it was true Henrikson helped pay for a luxury suite while in Dallas. Hall said it was. The Dallas trip proved disastrous because it was where his stepdaughter, Peyton Martin’s affair with Henrikson became an issue. “Didn’t things come to a head?’ said Maybrown. Isn’t that when Creveling confronted Peyton? Hall said, “Yes.” It was at this point, Hall said, when he realized it was time to end the Maheshu-Blackstone partnership, but Martin wasn’t ready to end anything. By the same time, the next year, she would have Henrikson’s baby.
From left: Tex Hall, former U.S. Congressman Rick Berg, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) during an April 2012 visit to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. Photo by Tami A. Heilemann / Department of the Interior

Gangs and Drugs

Martin traveled to Chicago in January 2013 with Henrikson and felon Robert Delao. She said she and Henrikson stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was her understanding that he had a meeting involving an electric company. She said before she left to go to the mall, Henrikson showed her a wad of $100 bills estimated at $20,000. Attorneys asked her if she thought it unusual he would be carrying so much cash. “I thought it was odd,” she said.

One gang-affiliated witness, Marvin “The Wiz” Martin of Milwaukee, testified he met Todd “T-Dog” Bates in Chicago during this same time period. The Wiz was led to believe that T-Dog’s “millionaire” boss from North Dakota wanted to purchase a kilo of China White heroin that sells upwards of $100,000 per kilo. The Wiz said T-Dog only had about $20,000 for cocaine. On a following trip to Chicago, The Wiz – who said he used to run with the Vice Lords gang – was asked by T-Dog to murder someone for $25,000. T-Dog, who said he was a Crips gang member, gave him $10,000.

The Wiz said he took the money and threw the phone away. He said he never killed anyone. The Wiz testified under immunity. Bates was a friend of Robert Delao, the truck dispatcher for Blackstone. After Hall ended his business relationship with Blackstone in the spring of 2013, Delao remained an employee of Maheshu Energy. Delao pleaded guilty September 16, 2015 to his role in acting as the middleman who helped arrange the murder of Doug Carlile. He is expected to receive a 14-to 17-year prison sentence.

Timothy Suckow also pleaded guilty for killing Kristopher Clarke and to shooting Carlile in the kitchen of his Spokane home. The 63-year-old grandfather was shot in the face. Detectives on the scene found teeth on the kitchen floor and denture fragments under Carlile’s body. Henrikson had several people marked for death. By September 2013, he was making plans to kill Hall, according to a Spokane police affidavit. Plans were already in motion to kill Carlile.

After Carlile’s death, the MHA Nation Tribal Business Council passed a resolution Jan. 31, 2012, to suspend all business activity on the reservation with seven people including Stan Dedmon, John Wark, Stephanie Welmaker, Douglas Helton, Bill Curtis, Rene Johnson, Creveling and Henrikson. Hall, who was tribal chairman at the time, signed the resolution.
A mugshot of James Henrikson, who was found guilty for the murders of Doug Carlile and Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke. Photo from Burleigh County Detention Center

Tainted Love

Like ash in the air after a volcanic eruption, the fallout of Henrikson and Creveling’s criminal activities spread far and wide leaving a dirty tinge on all it touched. On Feb. 11, Sarah Creveling entered the courtroom in the U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington wearing gray slacks, no socks and a black, thigh length, buttoned jacket. Her make-up less face revealed little expression. She had her blonde hair pulled tight in a bun.

Henrikson wore a pale, grayish-blue suit jacket and a petunia pink shirt as he sat at a table with his defense attorneys watching his ex-wife testify for the government. Immediately following her testimony, Martin, the daughter of Hall’s girlfriend, was called to the witness stand. She walked past jurors wearing black skinny-legged jeans with rips across the thighs that she tucked into a pair of black cowboy boots. A silver-and -turquoise squash blossom necklace hung near her waist and her dark-colored hair fell loose below her shoulders.

Martin said she was a college student home for the holidays when she first met Henrikson in December 2011. “They were at our house for Christmas,” she said. Attorney: “Do you have a child with the defendant?” Martin: “Yes.” The child was named Bentley. Attorney: “After you got back from school, did you see this poster?” Martin said she saw a poster that Kristopher Clarke had been missing since Feb. 22, 2012. He had last been seen at the Maheshu Energy property owned by Hall.

When Martin asked Henrikson about the poster, he told her Clarke ran away that he was “famous for running away.” Prosecutor: “Did his relationship sour with your mother?” Martin: “Yes.” Prosecutor: “Did defendant say anything about your mother?” referring to Tiffany Johnson. Martin: “Yes.” Henrikson told Martin her mother was “making people angry” and that it was going to get her killed. Martin said she was ready to leave the country with the murder-for-hire suspect after Carlile was killed.

Henrikson sent the mother of his two-month-old son an email saying they would need a passport for “little Bentley.” Prosecutor: “Why did you need a passport?” Martin said they were going to leave the United States, learn Portuguese and fly to Brazil on a private jet. They were going to change their last names to Vanderbilt. The two had plans to marry, which would have made her Henrikson’s fourth wife. He sent Martin an email and talked about a South American friend: “Bruce has a real big yacht. It will be fun to get married on a yacht.” Henrikson told her he had a big job in Brazil and he would make $170 million a year.
From left: Tiffany Johnson, Tex Hall and Peyton Martin are seen in a 2012 photo on Facebook

Moving On

While the Maheshu-Blackstone business was supposed to be closed out by spring 2013, by May, Kingdom Dynamics had purchased mineral rights on Fort Berthold. And by July, Carlile formed a new trucking company called Bridgewater. Henrikson hadn’t been content on just trucking water and oil. He wanted a bigger piece of action. He and Carlile had met through one of Carlile’s acquaintances. Carlile created Kingdom Dynamics Enterprises in July 2012 and owned 51 percent of the business.

By fall that year, Henrikson was working with him on finding investors to drill on the Fort Berthold land. The group sought to secure oil leases on 640 acres of trust land on the reservation. They pooled together $1.6 million, but still sought investors to complete their lease. They also needed millions of dollars more to drill. Henrikson had been using the name James Vanderbilt when he was looking for investors to drill on Fort Berthold.

By fall 2013, he and Carlile were at great odds over the Kingdom Dynamics leasing venture. Both men wanted the other out of the deal. Henrikson said Carlile’s “walking days are over,” investor Wark told the courtroom in Richland. Creveling also testified: “No one was willing to give up the golden ticket,” referring to the Fort Berthold oil leases. Texas oilman, Stan Dedmon – an investor recruited by Carlile – testified the oil beneath the 640 acres likely had “billions of dollars” of frackable shale.

Land on three sides of the acreage was being leased and drilled by XTO Energy, an Exxon subsidiary that had been producing $250,000 of oil a day when oil prices topped $100 per barrel. Kingdom Dynamics investors were working with Enerplus. Creveling told the U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington that Hall was “very interested” in the Kingdom Dynamics deal, but his interest ended, she said. Hall, on the other hand, said he didn’t know Carlile.

As Henrikson and Creveling hid profits from Wark and Carlile as part of the Bridgewater trucking company, Wark was suspicious about losses. He asked certified public accountant Rene Johnson of Koch, Johnson & Co. about losses, but she “danced around questions.” Johnson, a friend of Henrikson, was able to invest $400,000 in the Kingdom Dynamics Enterprise deal on Fort Berthold.

She was the only investor to recoup losses, according to lawyers. Hall told the court he still retains the accounting services of Koch, Johnson & Co. Wark testified that two years remain on one of the tracts. He described the owners as “Indian people on the reservation.” As Creveling and her husband made money, they bilked nearly every investor who worked with them, stealing at least $1.7 million. The couple had played a shell game of moving money and assets between at least six companies they created, including Geneva World Investments, Blackstone Crude, Blackstone Oilfield Services and Blackstone Electric. She was indicted by a North Dakota grand jury Sept. 2, 2015 for mail fraud and money laundering. She will be tried in North Dakota at a later date and faces 10 years in prison. She had an agreement for her cooperation during the Henrikson trial. She said she met with government investigators more than 20 times to provide information.
An oil rig on the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News

Behind the Iron Curtain

Henrikson and Creveling had been getting contracts from the Three Affiliated Tribes for road watering. Contrary to the Ethics in Government Ordinance, Hall voted to pay his business partners $179,748.70 at a May 5, 2012 Tribal Business Council. He later “authorized a misleading memorandum that was used to obtain the signatures of other Tribal Business Council members and initiated the payment of $390,549.2 0 to Henrikson and Creveling,” according to the Dentons investigation.

Between May and July 2012, TAT Chairman Hall ensured payments totaling $570,297.90 to Blackstone. In the Dentons report, Hall said there was “one shared bank account and one set of accounting records for the Maheshu-Henrikson-Creveling d/b/a Blackstone Trucking business.” Hall decided to end his business relationship with Blackstone beginning with a cordial email sent to Creveling March 13, 2013.

He said he had considered the matter and it was time Maheshu and Blackstone owners went their own direction. “Thank you Sarah and it has been good working with you!” wrote Hall. In the Richland courtroom during Henrikson’s trial, Hall was asked if Blackstone had ever sued him. He testified without immunity. He said no.

Maybrown then lit up a projector screen with the image of the legal documents regarding a lawsuit between Hall and Henrikson. “Does this refresh your memory?” said Maybrown. Hall said it did. In November 2013, Hall’s lawyers had responded to the lawsuit. During this time, Hall had tried unsuccessfully to stop payment checks written from Maheshu to Henrikson’s businesses Attorneys showed Hall copies of the checks on a courtroom projector.

He testified he had never seen copies of the signed checks before Feb. 17, 2016. His signature appeared on the checks. He told the court Tiffany Johnson had control of the check stamp that bore his name and that her daughter, Peyton Martin, sometimes took the stamp to work in a bank-type zippered bag. Although Henrikson and Creveling no longer worked with Hall, their friends still did. Hall described bookkeeper Robin Benson and Robert Delao to the court as “inherited” employees. Hall sensed something was awry when he saw his company checks in Benson’s backpack.

The checks were made out to other companies. “I said, ‘Robin, what are you doing?’” Hall testified. She later told him the checks were stolen and cashed. Defense attorney Maybrown said the checks in question were similar, if not exact, to the $570 thousand the Three Affiliated Tribes paid Henrikson for a road-watering contract. Maybrown said the banks allowed the checks to be processed because of the lawsuit Henrikson filed against him. The suit against Hall was eventually dropped. Hall said the lawsuit had nothing to do with the checks he tried to cancel.

Unchecked Tribal Government

Maybrown asked Hall about the $2.5 million tribal yacht that is docked below Four Bears Casino. “I negotiated a contract from $2.5 million to $1 million,” said Hall. “I thought it was a pretty good deal.” The TAT Tribal Business Council voted in favor of the yacht, he said. Maybrown then turned his questioning to an investigation led by a former U.S. attorney Stephen Hill who issued a report from Dentons Law Firm. Hall was questioned in U.S. District Court about the findings about abuse of power and failure to abide by the tribal ethics committee.

Hall said he created the Ethics in Government Ordinance. Maybrown countered that there was an ordinance, but never an ethics committee to carry out rules set forth by the ordinance. The Ethics in Government Ordinance has never been used by any TAT administration since it was created in 2005. Tribal citizens have been hard pressed to get any information from the tribe.

In fact, the Aug. 14, 2014 Dentons report was released to the tribal citizens only after they protested outside the tribal council chambers administration building. The protest took place the day before the tribe’s September 15 primary election. Once let inside the building, one of the council members, Judy Brugh, handed out copies of the report to protestors. Hall served three terms as chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes from 1998-2002, 2002-2006 and 2010-2014. He lost what would have been a fourth term as chairman during the tribe’s Sept. 16 primary election.

Three council positions are up for re-election in fall 2016, including the communities of Mandaree, White Shield and New Town. At issue among voters are the “conflict of interests” of Three Affiliated Tribes Business Council members and the continually ignored Ethics in Government Ordinance.

Jodi Rave Spotted Bear is the founder of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance, an organization dedicated to public interest reporting and freedom of information in Indian Country. She can be reached at jodi@imfreedomalliance.org. This story placed in the Best of the Dakotas 2017 competition of the North Dakota and South Dakota newspaper associations. It was first published in the Native Sun News in beginning in March 2016.