A couple U.S. oil refinerers have been buying oil smuggled in from Mexico, and must now return the money to Pemex. To make matters worse, the oil is being smuggled by drug gangs, who have been illegally tapping into Mexican oil pipelines. Apparenly even criminals are being hit with the recession and have to branch out into new business ventures. Donald Schroeder, president of Houston-based Trammo Petroleum, is scheduled to be sentenced in December after pleading guilty in May. Schroeder purchased $2 million in stolen Mexican oil that had been brought across the border in trucks and barges and sold it to various U.S. refineries. Trammo profited about $150,000 in the scheme. So far, the scheme seems to be small scale, with only Trammo implicated. The company sells at total 2.1 million barrels a year, a minuscule figure compared to major refiners like Valero or Exxon, so odds are this a just a relatively small-scale operation. The good news is that U.S. and Mexican officials have been working in conjunction to bust up this ring, so three cheers for international cooperation. This opens the door for all sorts of new ventures of money-desperate gangsters. If they're in such need of money, I suggest they take advantage of our Cash for Clunkers program and turn in their old gas-guzzling trucks and get more fuel-efficient cars to smuggle drugs across the border in. Maybe a reality show where they hunt down snitches. It could be called "Survivor: For Real!" -Stephen Payne, Editor, Oil and Gas Investor This Week; www.OilandGasInvestor.com; spayne@hartenergy.com