At first glance, Jed McClure’s life seems pretty normal. He lives in Sycamore with his wife Jessica and two children, is an entrepreneur and studies law and business at Northern Illinois University.
But what has happened to McClure in the past seven years sounds more like a TV drama. Hitmen were hired to kill him twice while he helped unravel business partner James Henrikson’s secret double life of murder, involvement in the drug trade and fraud.
“Dateline NBC” did a two-hour special on the story, and Investigation Discovery will air an episode this week. “Blood & Oil,” part of “Pandora’s Box: Unleashing Evil” will air at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, on Investigation Discovery.
McClure met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to tell his account of how he helped to warn others after he learned about his one-time business partner’s criminal past.
Milton: How did everything start?
McClure: It all started when two other people and I started a business in North Dakota in July 2011. I was in the process of selling off a previous project, and I had a friend who wanted to start a trucking company in North Dakota. One of the partners I knew well. The other partner, James [Henrikson], I had just met and had a mutual friend who vouched for him. I worked from home here in Sycamore and traveled back and forth. The other partners moved to North Dakota and were managing operations. It was during the time of the oil boom. I did my research, and it was a viable business. Unfortunately, James was able to hide his criminal history and true intentions from me.
Milton: What were your roles in the business?
McClure: I developed the strategy for our business, worked with investors and negotiated contracts. James ran operations and was the face of the company, developing relationships with the oil tycoons. He and his wife were the Ken and Barbie of the oil industry. In North Dakota, a lot of the locals were truck drivers that worked 12-hour shifts and slept in their cabs. It was rural North Dakota, with limited housing, very little infrastructure and a rough, cowboy culture. But James was different. Wherever he went people gravitated to him. He projected confidence and success and everyone wanted to be around him.
Milton: Was the business venture successful?
McClure: We became very successful in a very short period of time. We started with transporting frac water but soon extended our business to provide any service the oil operators needed. ... Within 10 months of starting the business, we were generating roughly $1 million a month in profits while running over 100 trucks a day. Because of our reputation and commitment to detail, there was so much demand for our services that we were able to charge outrageous prices and the oil companies didn’t even bat an eye. We had dozens of companies subcontracted through us and new companies everyday wanting to work with us. The excitement of boom-town life was enthralling! Everyone was so eager to work and make money, the excitement was contagious. I woke up every day excited for the opportunities that would present themselves. The trick was staying ahead of it all because business was growing so fast.
Milton: When did things start to turn sour?
McClure: From the get-go James had planned to commit fraud. He was silently transferring business registrations to his wife. He set up fake companies, shell companies, under his wife’s name. Those fake companies were then set up as subcontractors of our business, and we were paying them for services that were fictitious. He funneled money from our company into these shell companies in an elaborate and sophisticated scam.
Milton: When did you notice things weren’t right?
McClure: In late spring 2012, I started noticing discrepancies with the financial statements. It started with small amounts: $1,000 here, $400 there, but we were making millions of dollars, were managing more than 70 active subcontractors and working on some very large projects that kept us constantly busy. The discrepancies were small red flags, but when you have one red flag and 50,000 green flags, you set your priorities. Of course, James and I discussed the discrepancies and he assured me that he’d look into it but nothing was ever done. Over the course of several months the discrepancies became bigger and bigger and the more I looked into it the more I discussed. Finally, in October 2012, I uncovered solid evidence that James was embezzling from our company, but more alarmingly, I also discovered that James had murdered one of our employees.
Milton: Tell me about the first murder?
McClure: One of James’ good friends, Kristopher Clarke [KC], moved out to North Dakota to help us oversee the trucking operation. KC told people that James owed him $600,000, that our business was a front for a drug operation and that he was afraid for his life. KC bought a gun. He decided to start his own company and steal our business and employees. James found out and hired a hitman. In mid-February 2012, he called a mandatory meeting of all management staff. We had just acquired a big contract and would be doubling our operations over the next month. He put KC on a mandatory vacation beforehand so he would be rested and ready to for the new contract to begin in a few weeks, but in actuality James needed a good cover for KC to disappear. James had already made arrangements for hired hitman Timothy Suckow to travel from Washington state to North Dakota get rid of KC.
Milton: What happened to KC?
McClure: As soon as he left the meeting, KC began setting up meetings with our contractors to sabotage our contracts and steal our business. On the day of his death, KC had a meeting with one of our major contractors. Suckow had arrived in North Dakota and James brought him to our office building and introduced him to people as the new janitor. James tried in vain to reach KC by phone but KC ignored him. However, when James’ wife Sarah called KC and asked him to come to the office and return his copy of the company credit card, KC reluctantly agreed. When KC arrived at the office building, James told KC he wanted to show him a modification he had just made to his facing bike. Because KC and James were old motorcycle racing buddies and because KC was confident James did not know of KC’s plans to steal our business, KC allowed himself to be lured into the repair shop. Inside the shop, KC was introduced to Suckow and they even shook hands. Then, as James and KC were looking at the bike, Suckow beat him in the head with a metal rod until he was dead. They took him out to the badlands, buried his body and abandoned his truck in a nearby town, where it was found three months later. KC’s mom accused James of murder, but there was no evidence, no body and both James and his wife refused a polygraph test. James told me and everyone else that KC left for vacation and never came back.
Milton: How did you first learn of James’ criminal history?
McClure: In October, a friend emailed me a link to a Facebook page created by KC’s mom. The page accused James of killing KC and mentioned that James had an extensive criminal record and that James was using an alternate spelling of his name to hide his past. I contacted KC’s mom and then began working with a private investigator. Within weeks we not only had concrete evidence of the fraud, but also James’ criminal records. James had been convicted of multiple felonies including, battery, assault and burglary, was previously part of a large drug operation in Oregon where he served time in prison and was connected to organized crime. We also had strong evidence of drug trafficking and that James was possibly using our company as a front to smuggle drugs.
Milton: What happened after you discovered the truth?
McClure: November 2012 was the beginning of the end. Immediately after I confronted him, he wiped out the bank accounts. The titles of the equipment had already been transferred to shell companies and they simply disappeared. When I filed a lawsuit, he hired a thug named Marvin “The Wiz” Martin from Chicago, to kill me. James offered him $10,000 upfront and promised another $20,000 after he killed me, but “The Wiz” took the $10,000 and ran. There were messages from James with my name and address in code along with instructions for the hitman, but I didn’t find out about it until a year and a half later.
Milton: What was your next step?
McClure: In January 2013, I hired an attorney. James has stolen an estimated $12 million, the equipment was gone and there were a dozen shell companies in six states. I spent about $20,000 on attorney’s fees before we realized I would never be able to collect anything because it all disappeared. But I wasn’t the only victim. There were dozens and dozens of truckers that were ripped off by James as well.
Milton: What did you do after hearing similar stories from others?
McClure: I was constantly hearing stories of people getting ripped off by James and I knew I needed to do something to stop him. I created a website and blog with James’ entire criminal history and posted links to documents showing his criminal record and aliases. I created a “Beware” poster modeled after an FBI’s most wanted poster with James’ picture, a list of the companies he was using, his aliases and his entire criminal record. I printed 5,000 copies and mailed it to every business and residence in the area. James had the blog shut down twice, so I created a page on RipoffReport.com which James was not able to get taken down. I contacted oil companies and the tribal council and James was eventually banned from working on the Indian reservation and blackballed by the oil companies. That’s when James hired a second person to kill me. He attempted to lure me to a meeting with him and his attorney, but he was really planning to have me killed.
Milton: How and when was James arrested?
McClure: James was initially arrested in January 2014 on charges of being a felon in possession of a handgun. Because he was a felon it’s illegal for him to purchase or own a handgun. After seven hand guns were discovered during a raid on his home, a warrant was issued for his arrest. James went on the run and attempted to tie up loose ends by hiring another hitman, offering $100,000 to kill his wife, Timothy Suckow and his right-hand man Robert Delao. James was arrested a week later with his 18-year-old mistress and their 3-month-old child while they were buying supplies in preparation for fleeing to Brazil.
Milton: What was James charged and sentenced for?
McClure: In September 2014, James was formally charged with two counts of murder-for-hire, four counts of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, four counts of solicitation to commit murder-for-hire and one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin. He was held for nearly two years before his trial and attempted to escape twice during that time. The 2016 murder trial lasted for seven weeks. I testified against James, and so did his ex-wife and his accomplices. James was found unanimously guilty on all 11 counts and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 30 years.
Milton: How did your business ties to James effect you?
McClure: I lost everything in the process and had to start over. It’s a terrible thing to constantly live with the stress of not knowing what might happen next, if my family was safe, how to rebuild with nothing. I had my entire house installed with a security system with motion sensors and took to sleeping with a loaded shotgun under my bed. … I knew I was putting myself in danger but people needed to know the truth. James was going to continue hurting people until someone put a stop to it. So many people knew James committed the murders, theft or other crimes but they stayed silent because they either profited from it or were too afraid to say anything. I fought back because I couldn’t just stand by while he hurt someone else.
Milton: What is your reaction to being on a true crime TV show?
McClure: It’s actually a bit embarrassing. I was duped and lost everything because of a conman. I was a millionaire and a savvy business owner, and I never anticipated this could happen to me. However, I’m excited to get the story out there, because the story needs to be told. I’m writing a book about what happened and am talking to a producer in Hollywood about making a miniseries. It’s part of the reason why I’m studying for my MBA and am in law school now. I want to teach people how to avoid what happened to me. This type of fraud is more common than we want to admit, and it can be prevented if you know what to look for.