September 25, 2021

News

News Network

Pennsylvania Biofuel Company and Owners Sentenced on Environmental and Tax Crime Convictions Arising out of Renewable Fuels Fraud

17 min read
<div>Two biofuel company owners were sentenced to prison for conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conspiracy to defraud the IRS and preparing a false tax claim.</div>

Two biofuel company owners were sentenced to prison for conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and conspiracy to defraud the IRS and preparing a false tax claim.  

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III sentenced Ben Wootton, 55 of Savannah, Georgia, to 70 months and Race Miner, 51, of Marco Island, Florida, to 66 months, after a jury convicted both defendants and their company, Keystone Biofuels Inc. (Keystone), in April 2019.  The company was originally located in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania, and later in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.  Miner was the founder and chief executive officer of Keystone.  Wootton was president of Keystone, and a former member of the National Biodiesel Board.  The court ordered both men to pay restitution of $4,149,383.41 to the IRS and restitution of $5,076,376.07 to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.  Wootton and Miner will also have to serve a three-year term of supervised release after their term of imprisonment.  Keystone was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of $4,149,383.41 to the IRS and restitution of $5,076,376.07 to the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection criminal fine.

“The EPA and IRS renewable fuels incentive programs are important components of the Congressional program to increase the use of biofuels to benefit the environment,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “Today’s sentences are a strong reminder that the federal government will not allow supposed “green” conmen to illegally take advantage of federal and state programs that are meant to offer financial incentives to enhance the environment and energy sustainability.”

“The complex fraud perpetrated by the defendants in this case struck directly at the heart of a government program that was specifically created to benefit the environment, business owners and the community at large,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  “Encouraging companies to develop and provide for sale clean renewable fuels is truly a win-win proposition for everyone.  Unfortunately, the defendants used this program to benefit only themselves.  Today’s sentences send a clear message that my office, our federal partners and the United States Department of Justice will not tolerate renewable fuels fraud and related offenses.”

“The defendants defrauded the IRS and sought to profit from a system intended to protect the environment,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.  “The Tax Division will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute with our partners such tax crimes.”

“Today’s sentencing demonstrates there are real penalties for those defrauding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program,” said Jessica Taylor, Director of the EPA’s criminal enforcement program. “With this action EPA and its enforcement partners are continuing to protect both the integrity of the RINs program and the American taxpayer.”  

“Wootton and Miner actively engaged in a multimillion-dollar scheme designed to rob the government and line their own pockets.  Today, they learned there is a steep price to be paid for such greed,” said Jim Lee, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).  “It is the partnerships between IRS-CI and other federal agencies like the EPA that allow cases like this to come to fruition, holding accountable those who seek to enrich themselves through fraudulent means.”    

“The only green resource these two cared about was money, and they told lie after lie to perpetuate their fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office. “Fair warning to anyone else seeking to scam the U.S. government and taxpayers like this: the FBI and our partners stand ready to investigate and hold you accountable as well.”

Wootton, Miner, and Keystone falsely represented that they were able to produce a fuel meeting the requirements set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for biodiesel (a renewable fuel) and adopted by the EPA, and as such were entitled to create renewable fuel credits, known as RINs, based on each gallon of renewable fuel produced.  The fuel and the RINs have financial value and could be sold and purchased by participants within the federal renewable fuels commercial system. 

Wootton and Miner were also convicted of fraudulently claiming federal tax refunds based on IRS’s Biofuel Mixture Credit.  The Biodiesel Mixture Credit is a type of “blender’s credit” for persons or businesses who mix biodiesel with diesel fuel and use or sell the mixture as a fuel.  Wootton and Miner caused Keystone to fraudulently claim tax refunds based on non-qualifying fuel and, in at least some instances, non-existent or non-mixed fuel.  In an attempt to hide their fraud scheme, the men created false corporate books and records and sham financial transactions to account for the nonexistent and non-qualifying fuel, and to create the appearance of legitimacy.

The prosecution of Wootton, Miner and Keystone is the first prosecution of a case under the federal renewable fuels program based on fuel that did not meet the program renewable fuel quality standards. 

The case was prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Howard P. Stewart of the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey MacArthur, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lastra, and Trial Attorneys Mark Kotila and Michael C. Vasiliadis of the Tax Division.  EPA Region III Criminal Investigation Division, IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI Philadelphia’s Harrisburg Resident Agency investigated the matter.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

News Network

  • Covid-19 Contracting: Observations on Federal Contracting in Response to the Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    Government-wide contract obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic totaled $17.8 billion as of June 11, 2020. Four agencies accounted for 85 percent of total COVID-19 contract obligations (see figure). This report provides available baseline data on COVID-19 federal contract obligations. Contract Obligations in Response to COVID-19 by Department, as of June 11, 2020 About 62 percent of federal contract obligations were for goods to treat COVID-19 patients and protect health care workers—including ventilators, gowns, and N95 respirators. Less than half of total contract obligations were identified as competed (see figure). Top Five Goods and Services and Percentage of Obligations Competed, as of June 11, 2020 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 30, 2020, the United States has documented more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and more than 125,000 deaths due to COVID-19. To facilitate the U.S. response to the pandemic, numerous federal agencies have awarded contracts for critical goods and services to support federal, state, and local response efforts. GAO's prior work on federal emergency response efforts has found that contracts play a key role, and that contracting during an emergency can present unique challenges as officials can face pressure to provide goods and services as quickly as possible. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) included a provision for GAO to provide a comprehensive review of COVID-19 federal contracting. This is the first in a series of GAO reports on this issue. This report describes, among other objectives, key characteristics of federal contracting obligations awarded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future GAO work will examine agencies' planning and management of contracts awarded in response to the pandemic, including agencies' use of contracting flexibilities provided by the CARES Act. GAO analyzed data from the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation on agencies' reported government-wide contract obligations for COVID-19 through June 11, 2020. GAO also analyzed contract obligations reported at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs—the highest obligating agencies. For more information, contact Marie A. Mak at (202) 512-4841 or MakM@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Foreign Service Member Indicted for Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in the Philippines and Possession of Child Pornography
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment today charging a member of the U.S. Foreign Service with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and possession of child pornography.
    [Read More…]
  • Local woman guilty of disaster fraud
    In Justice News
    A 46-year-old Houston [Read More…]
  • Paraguay Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Statement by Attorney General William P. Barr on the 19th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William [Read More…]
  • South Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    In San Antonio today, 34-year-old Kristopher Sean Matthews (aka Ali Jibreel) admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (aka ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer for the Western District of Texas, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.
    [Read More…]
  • On the UN Human Rights Council’s Embrace of Authoritarian Regimes
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Former Tallahassee City Commissioner and Business Partner Sentenced for Years-Long Bribery Scheme
    In Crime News
    Former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his former business partner Paige Carter-Smith were sentenced today in the Northern District of Florida to five years and two years in prison, respectively, for their roles in a multi-year scheme to use Maddox’s power as a sitting City Commissioner to extract bribes from Tallahassee companies with business in front of the City Commission. Maddox and Carter-Smith were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $76,763 and $115,619, respectively, and ordered to pay a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $70,000.
    [Read More…]
  • Next Generation Combat Vehicles: As Army Prioritizes Rapid Development, More Attention Needed to Provide Insight on Cost Estimates and Systems Engineering Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    The four efforts within the Next Generation Combat Vehicles (NGCV) portfolio all prioritize rapid development, while using different acquisition approaches and contracting strategies. Some of the efforts use the new middle-tier acquisition approach, which enables rapid development by exempting programs from many existing DOD acquisition processes and policies. Similarly, the efforts use contracting strategies that include both traditional contract types as well as more flexible approaches to enable rapid development of technology and designs. Vehicles of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Portfolio The two programs within the portfolio that recently initiated acquisitions—Mobile Protected Firepower and Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle—have taken some steps to mitigate risks in cost and technology consistent with GAO's leading practices. The Army's use of the middle-tier approach for these efforts may facilitate rapid development, but the programs could benefit from additional application of GAO's leading practices. For example, the programs identified some risks in their cost estimates, but because each presented a single estimate of the total cost—referred to as a point estimate—these estimates do not fully reflect how uncertainty could affect costs. Similarly, the programs took some steps to mitigate technical risk by limiting development to 6 years or less and incrementally introducing new technologies, steps consistent with GAO's leading practices. However, by delaying key systems engineering reviews, the programs took some steps not consistent with leading practices, which could increase technical risk. While trade-offs may be necessary to facilitate rapid development, more consistent application of GAO's leading practices for providing cost estimates that reflect uncertainty and conducting timely systems engineering reviews could improve Army's ability to provide insight to decision makers and deliver capability to the warfighter on time and at or near expected costs. The Army has taken actions to enhance communication, both within the Army and with Department of Defense stakeholders, to mitigate risks. Within the Army, these actions included implementing a cross-functional team structure to collaboratively develop program requirements with input from acquisition, contracting, and technology development staff. Program officials also coordinated with other Army and Department of Defense stakeholders responsible for cost and test assessment, even where not required by policy, to mitigate risk. The Army views the NGCV portfolio as one of its most critical and urgent modernization priorities, as many current Army ground combat vehicles were developed in the 1980s or earlier. Past efforts to replace some of these systems failed at a cost of roughly $23 billion. In November 2017, the Army began new efforts to modernize this portfolio. GAO was asked to review the Army's plans for modernizing its fleet of ground combat vehicles. This report examines (1) the acquisition approaches and contracting strategies the Army is considering for the NGCV portfolio, (2) the extent to which the Army's efforts to balance schedule, cost, and technology are reducing acquisition risks for that portfolio, and (3) how the Army is communicating internally and externally to reduce acquisition risks. GAO reviewed the acquisition and contracting plans for each of the vehicles in the portfolio to determine their approaches; assessed schedule, cost, and technology information—where available—against GAO's leading practice guides on these issues as well as other leading practices for acquisition; and interviewed Army and DOD officials. GAO is making three recommendations, including that the Army follow leading practices on cost estimation and systems engineering to mitigate program risk. In its response, the Army concurred with these recommendations and plans to take action to address them. For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or ludwigsonj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Economic Adjustment Assistance: Actions Needed to Better Address Workers’ Needs and Assess Program Effectiveness
    In U.S GAO News
    Workers who are eligible for federal economic adjustment assistance (EAA) programs may face challenges using them. There are four EAA programs and one tax credit that focus on assistance to individual workers displaced by policy and economic changes. These include programs administered by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Department of Labor (DOL), which deliver services such as job training and counseling through state and local grantees. Selected grantees in all three states GAO visited described common challenges faced by workers from enrollment in EAA programs through re-entry into the job market. Grantees Described Common Challenges Workers Face in Accessing and Using Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program Services Interviews with selected grantees and GAO's data analysis revealed two key challenges with administering EAA programs and serving workers: Delays in grant decisions. From fiscal years 2015 through 2018, DOL took longer than legally required to process between 9 percent (3 out of 35) and 20 percent (3 out of 15) of National Dislocated Worker Grant applications. Grantees may serve fewer workers and may interrupt services to workers while awaiting decisions. DOL does not collect information on reasons for these delays and is missing opportunities to help ensure that dislocated workers receive timely assistance. Lack of information sharing. ARC and DOL do not share information about their EAA grant programs with grantees or each other, including information about grant projects that serve similar populations in similar geographic areas. As a result, ARC and DOL may fail to maximize program impact and reach across the 13-state Appalachian region. Regional officials said that coordination would enable them to better identify specific services needed by dislocated workers and which program might best be equipped to provide them. DOL has established performance measures to track outcomes for its EAA programs, but has experienced challenges with assessing the impact of job training offered under these programs. GAO reviewed two relevant studies on the impact of DOL's EAA programs containing some evidence that intensive services, such as one-on-one consultations and case management, were effective in improving earnings outcomes for dislocated workers. However, the studies were unable to effectively assess the impact of job training offered to dislocated workers under the programs due to methodological challenges. By collecting more quality evidence, DOL could be better able to determine if its EAA programs are helping workers achieve their employment goals. Federal EAA programs help workers adjust to various economic disruptions, such as policy changes on trade, defense, or energy, and shifts in immigration, globalization, or automation that cause a prolonged cyclical downturn and can dislocate workers. GAO was asked to review these programs. This report examines (1) what challenges eligible workers face in using EAA programs, (2) what challenges grantees face in implementing EAA programs and serving workers, and (3) what is known about the outcomes and impacts of selected EAA programs. GAO analyzed DOL grant processing data from fiscal years 2015 through 2018, the most recent data available at the time of GAO's analysis; reviewed outcome data from program year 2018 and program impact evaluations; interviewed ARC, DOL, and Department of the Treasury officials, as well as state and local officials in three states that experienced different economic disruptions and use different EAA programs; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that DOL address grant processing delays, DOL and ARC share information, and DOL prioritize improving the quality of evidence on the impact of job training for dislocated workers. DOL and ARC agreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Cindy S. Brown Barnes at (202) 512-7215 or brownbarnesc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Public Designation of Oligarch and Former Ukrainian Public Official Ihor Kolomoyskyy Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Tajikistan Foreign Minister Muhriddin
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland Recognizes Individuals and Organizations for Service to Crime Victims
    In Crime News
    More from: April 23, 2021 [Read More…]
  • Singaporean Shipping Company Fined $12 Million in a Multi-District Case for Concealing Illegal Discharges of Oily Water and Garbage and a Hazardous Condition
    In Crime News
    Pacific Carriers Limited (PCL), a Singapore-based company that owns subsidiaries engaged in international shipping, was sentenced today in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan in New Bern, North Carolina, after pleading guilty to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, obstruction of justice, and for a failure to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a hazardous condition on the Motor Vessel (M/V) Pac Antares.
    [Read More…]
  • Turkmenistan Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to [Read More…]
  • MS-13’s Highest-Ranking Leaders Charged with Terrorism Offenses in the United States
    In Crime News
    Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed in Central Islip, New York charging 14 of the world’s highest-ranking MS-13 leaders who are known today as the Ranfla Nacional, which operated as the Organization’s Board of Directors, and directed MS-13’s violence and criminal activity around the world for almost two decades.
    [Read More…]
  • 2020 END Wildlife Trafficking Report
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
    Bureau of Oceans and [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson Before Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Briefing with Senior Administration Officials Previewing Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Upcoming Travel to the People’s Republic of China
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • On the 41st Anniversary of the U.S. Embassy Takeover in Tehran
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.