THOUSAND OAKS : Brothers Get Prison for Bilking Investors

Two Thousand Oaks brothers were sentenced to prison on Thursday for bilking about 200 investors in their gas exploration business out of nearly $3 million.

Investors' cash was illegally pumped into their company, Fountain Oil & Gas of Westlake, to keep it afloat, investigators said.

The president and founder of the firm, Charles E. Fuentes, 47--who investigators said used company funds to buy expensive cars, clothes and personal expenses--was sentenced by a Ventura County Superior Court judge to five years and eight months in state prison and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the victims.

His brother, James A. Fuentes, 42, was sentenced to 16 months in prison and also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution. A third brother, Kenneth R. Fuentes, 36, of Thousand Oaks, was sentenced in February to a year in jail for his role in the fraud.

The now-defunct company used telephone soliciting and mailers to sell investments in natural gas drilling projects in the Sacramento Valley between 1986 and 1989. As many as 250 investors put up about $12 million, according to court papers filed by Ventura County district attorney's investigator Thomas L. Kitchens.

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