WASHBURN, N.D. — Two men accused in rural construction scams pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges in South Central District Court on Feb. 8, 2021, and were ordered to pay restitution and spend more than a year in prison.
The father-and-son pair — Bartley Gorman, Jr., 56, and his son, Sean Patrick Gorman, 27 — appeared from Ft. Worth, Texas, via Zoom to change their plea from not guilty to guilty.
South Central District Judge James Hill sentenced them each to 30 months in prison with 15 months suspended and two years of supervised probation. He also ordered them to pay $729,000 in restitution, in addition to court costs.
Prosecutors have said the two men are part of the "Irish Travellers," which they described as a longstanding organized crime group, also called the “Travellers,” "The Irish Mob," or the "White Gypsies." (Traveller with the double "l" is the British English spelling of the word.) The investigators say the Gormans previously were involved in a widespread roofing scam that members of the group perpetrated on elderly people in Oklahoma. In North Dakota, investigators said the Gorman General Contracting company, based in the Minot area, carried out a “pattern of racketeering activity.”
Ladd Erickson, McLean County state’s attorney, prosecuted all of the cases, which involved entities run by the Gormans performing "deceptive work" and deceiving and intimidating victims, typically elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Gorman General Contracting operated as a “shell business to conduct a pattern of racketeering in North Dakota oil-producing counties,” according to court documents.
Documents filed in the case explained the scam, saying the Gormans would "just show up" and start working, demanding payments that third party experts deemed "exorbitant in relation to the work or supplies." The poor quality work would often lead to future projects and extortion. In other instances, they would show up and offer a low price for projects and later escalate the costs.
Erickson said the case included a man in McKenzie County being defrauded out of $1.9 million by Gorman and others. The state’s attorney in McKenzie County agreed to a non-prosecution agreement in which the Gormans would be ordered to repay $666,000 for which they were considered responsible. Hill ordered the Gormans to pay $63,000 in restitution to victims in McLean County.
McLean County had seized $381,437 from Gorman bank accounts.
Hill, operating from Bismarck, N.D., allowed the Gormans a delay in turning themselves in because of a family health matter. They are ordered to turn themselves in to McLean County by 9 a.m. on March 1, 2021. There, they are expected to undergo a quarantine for COVID-19 before being transported to the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck.
Hill ordered them to have no contact and not come within 100 yards of victims.
Erickson indicated that there are warrants out in Dunn County, N.D., for other people in related construction scam cases.
“If I find out that there are additional ‘Traveller’ activities in North Dakota, within my statute of limitations … and I have jurisdiction to charge, I fully intend to file those charges,” he said.
In the plea agreement, Erickson insisted on all of the restitution on the “front end for our victims” and for prison time. Erickson explained that defendants in such construction scams often follow a pattern: "be confronted by police, pay restitution, and not end up with a conviction.”
“It’s kind of built into the system, that if law enforcement confronts you, just pay the money. Hopefully it doesn’t get in the media or you don’t get a charge,” Erickson said.