Detroit Lakes man who claimed to plug oil spill charged in Hummer fix theft
It wasn't just the media who fell for his apparent scams.
A Detroit Lakes, Minn., man who fabricated a story last summer that he had invented the cap that fixed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is facing three unrelated felony theft charges.
Blake Mastin, aka Blake A. Sundvor, allegedly took money and truck parts from at least six victims who were promised that Mastin would repair or rebuild their Hummer H-1 sport utility vehicles.
Detroit Lakes police arrested Mastin, 28, on Thursday afternoon, and a judge set bail at $100,000. If convicted, Mastin would face a maximum of 35 years in prison and $130,000 in fines.
According to a complaint filed Thursday in Becker County District Court, Mastin used forums for Hummer owners to lure victims. He claimed he had a shop in Detroit Lakes and could convert their vehicles to use diesel fuel to make them more efficient. He also promised to do other work or to sell parts, which were not delivered.
Blair Outlan of Memphis, Tenn., met Mastin in 2007 and said he thinks he's one of the first victims of Mastin's Hummer scam. His complaint, though on file with the Detroit Lakes Police Department, was not one of the incidents for which Mastin was charged.
Outlan said he invested in Mastin, who promised he could perform diesel conversions of Hummers for $15,000 each. Outlan said a typical conversion costs $50,000.
He shipped parts and money to Mastin but received nothing in return, he said.
"I wanted to believe it," Outlan said. "I was emotionally involved, and I wanted to see it happen. I ignored some of the facts and didn't do enough ground research on him before I got into it. He spewed just enough crap to be believable."
When he realized he was likely being scammed, Outlan said, he drove to Minnesota to retrieve parts and try to get his money back. He retrieved what he could but said he's still out nearly $30,000.
He and other alleged victims, many of whom communicate with each other on Hummer forums, decided there was no point in suing Mastin to obtain money he likely no longer had.
"Most of us have just written off our losses," Outlan said.
In July, several local news outlets, including KARE-TV and KSTP-TV, reported that Mastin had invented the cap that eventually plugged the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the Pioneer Press found that BP had not bought the device from Mastin.
Though it was unclear what Mastin hoped to gain with the July claim, several victims thought he might use the stories, in which he said he would make hundreds of millions of dollars, to persuade people to invest in him or allow him to buy large-ticket items on credit.
Mastin's criminal record includes two felony convictions from 2005 -- one for theft and one for issuing a dishonored check. He also was convicted of gross misdemeanor theft in 2003.
Other crimes in his background include dishonored checks and a domestic assault.
Victims of the Hummer scam, according to court documents, came from across the country and in Canada.
In a 2008 case, the charges state, a California man said Mastin promised to convert his Hummer's engine and perform other work on the truck. Mastin mailed him a contract, which he signed. The victim shipped his truck to Detroit Lakes and transferred $13,000 to Mastin's bank account as a deposit for the work.
Court documents say the Californian flew to Detroit Lakes two months later when Mastin hadn't returned the Hummer. Mastin convinced him that it would be done in two weeks, and the victim returned home.
After two more months, Mastin shipped the Hummer to the victim in California, according to the charges, but none of the promised work had been performed. The man was not home when the truck was delivered, but he had left a cashier's check for $7,500, the agreed upon amount for the remainder for the work, with a neighbor. The neighbor handed the delivery driver the check.
In another instance, the charges say, a Montana man sent $9,000 to Mastin for vehicle parts he did not receive. When the victim tried to reclaim his money or parts, Mastin gave the victim a check for $7,800 and a part later discovered to be unusable. But Mastin almost immediately stopped payment on the check.
Outlan said his experiences with Mastin have made him more cautious in his business dealings.
"When I'm entering into something these days, I'm looking into it more," he said.
Hummer owners, Outlan said, are a tight-knit group who are appalled by the ease with which Mastin took their money.
"People who own these things have some disposable income to play around with this toy," Outlan said. "They're easy targets."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.