Owners of Keystone Biofuels sentenced on fraud conviction

By Erin Voegele | October 21, 2020

Two owners of Pennsylvania-based Keystone Biofuels Inc. on Oct. 20 were sentenced to prison for tax crimes and renewable fuels fraud. The two were found guilty of fraud and false claims during an April 2019 trial.

A statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Oct. 21 explains that Ben Wootton of Savannah, Georgia, was sentenced to 70 months and Race Miner of Marco Island, Florida, was sentenced to 66 months after a jury convicted both defendants and their company, Keystone Biofuels, in April 2019 of conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. EPA and conspiracy to the defraud the IRS and preparing a false tax claim. The court ordered both men to pay restitution of nearly $4.15 million to the IRS and restitution of nearly $5.08 million 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 Biofuels was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution of $4.15 million to the IRS and restitution of $5.08 million to the Pennsylvania DEP criminal fine.

According to the DOJ, Wootton, Miner and Keystone falsely represented that they were able to produce a fuel meeting ASTM requirements for biodiesel, and as such, were entitled to create renewable identification numbers (RINs) on each gallon of renewable fuel produced. Wootton and Miner were also convicted of fraudulently claiming federal tax refunds based on IRS’s Biofuel Mixture Credit. The DOJ said Wootton and Miner caused Keystone to fraudulently claim tax refunds based on non-qualifying fuel and, in 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 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.”

“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.” 

Additional information on the case and sentencing is available on the DOJ website

 

 
 
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