Lure of Marcellus Shale Riches Divides Family

RUSH TOWNSHIP — The natural gas drilling boom in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania has made some lucky land owners quite a bit of money.

But the promise of sudden wealth has also led to family feuds, and hard feelings.

Mike Timek of Plains was the best man at his late father`s wedding more than 30-years ago.

He thought he had a good relationship with his step-mother.

Then the potential for big money entered the picture.

It starts with an acre tract in Susquehanna County, splashed with the color of changing leaves in early October.

Mike Timek says his dad Michael and two friends bought the land in 1983 to have their own hunting area.

“It was a part of him,” said Mike Timek about the hunting land and his dad.  “He hunted up there for so long, that he knew it like the back of his hand.”

Michael Timek died in 2001.

He didn’t leave a will.

And he probably didn’t know this land could potentially yield the riches of natural gas, until two years ago.

“I got a phone call from Chesapeake Energy,” said Timek of the nation’s largest gas drilling company.

The nation’s largest natural gas driller looked at the property, “They were interested in signing a lease with me.”

But Mike says his stepmother Sandra Timek, had already signed away the family’s share of property’s mineral rights to Fortuna Energy.

“She just ignored everybody, ignored the law.”

Pennsylvania law reads that when someone dies without leaving a will, the spouse gets half the property, and all children, in this case two, share the other half.  Mike Timek says his step mother has essentially frozen out the two children. Mike and his brother.

Why?

“Money, greed,” says Mike Timek.  “She wants everything for herself.”

Timek`s lawyer Mike Cefalo says the proof starts with Fortuna’s lease, signed by Sandra Timek in 2009.

Cefalo says Sandra Timek crossed off her late husband`s name on the lease and replaced it with hers.

Another document that appears to be signed by Sandra Timek claims, she was the only heir to the family`s share of the property, even though her late husband left behind two sons.

“She cut out two people,” said Cefalo.

Sandra Timek did not want to talk with us, saying this is a private family matter.

One of the two other owners of the hunting property in Rush Township said he didn`t want to get involved.

Meantime a gas pipeline runs through the property and a nearby well pad is being built. Mike Timek wonders if riches will soon be generated by what was father’s hunting property.

“I`m not a greedy person,” said Mike Timek.  “This (land) is my children`s future.  It will possibly give them a college education.”

Mike Timek is now suing his stepmother demanding he get his share of money from gas boom in the future, and get back his share of the money that has already been paid.