The former president of a company that allegedly used misrepresentations to get investments for nonproductive oil and gas wells pleaded guilty Tuesday to securities fraud.

Rodney G. Blackford, 46, Littleton, Colo., agreed to pay nearly $3 million in restitution to investors of Blackford Energy, a Colorado company that sold investments in 1993 and 1994 from a Provo office. Blackford will be sentenced July 17 on three counts of selling unregistered securities and one count of securities fraud, all third-degree felonies.Blackford was charged with 15 felony counts in December 1996 and was scheduled to stand trial on the charges beginning Tuesday. Instead, prosecutors agreed to allow the dismissal of 11 counts in exchange for Blackford's guilty plea.

According to court documents, Blackford Energy solicited investments for the purpose of drilling oil and gas wells in Montana and Wyoming. Investors were told the company had discovered "major oil" sources, but all the wells were eventually plugged because they weren't producing enough oil to cover operational costs, investigators said.

Company officer Thomas T. Cherry, 59, Orem, and sales manager Ronald Zenger, 58, Springville, are scheduled to stand trial in October on multiple felony counts of securities fraud, sale of an unregistered security and sales by an unregistered broker.

Another company employee, Linda Cherry, 58, of St. George, pleaded no contest last August to four misdemeanor counts of attempted securities fraud. She was sentenced to pay a fine of nearly $1,000 and undetermined restitution. As part of their plea agreements, both Linda Cherry and Blackford agreed to assist prosecutors during the trial of Thomas Cherry and Zenger.