EL PASO, TX – The President of EarthWater Limited, a Dallas-based company, was charged in an indictment with obstructing justice in connection with an ongoing federal investigation.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas and Inspector in Charge Delany DeLeon-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group in Washington, D.C., made the announcement.
Beth Ellen DeGroot, 59, of Plano, Texas, was arrested and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee H. Toliver of the Northern District of Texas on Thursday, October 10, 2019. DeGroot was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice.
Harley E. Barnes III, aka Buddy Barnes, and five other individuals had been previously indicted by a Dallas grand jury for their alleged roles in a high-yield investment fraud scheme involving EarthWater. EarthWater manufactured and sold bottled water that it claimed was infused with special minerals mined from an 80-million-year-old deposit hidden in a secret location. Barnes was EarthWater’s Chief Financial Officer.
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According to the indictment, DeGroot was EarthWater’s Vice President. Following Barnes’ arrest, DeGroot was promoted to President and partnered with Barnes to continue to use EarthWater to raise money, including by selling stock. The indictment alleges that, as part of an ongoing investigation, DeGroot was served with a subpoena for documents. The indictment further alleges that, in response to the subpoena, DeGroot corruptly concealed the existence of certain emails and other communications relating to Barnes and DeGroot’s plan to sell EarthWater securities by, among other things, altering a document to deliver to the federal grand jury. Allegedly, DeGroot corruptly attempted to obstruct, influence and impede the ongoing investigation by misleading the grand jury and federal law enforcement about her receipt of funds from Barnes. DeGroot falsely claimed she had not received any money from Barnes when, according to the indictment, she had.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
USPIS investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Christopher Fenton and William Bowne of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary F. Walters of the Northern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.