Owners of Biofuel Company Plead Guilty to Conspiracy and Fraud Charges
The owners of an Indiana biofuel producer pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and false statements for participating in a scheme that generated over $60 million in fraudulent tax credits and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) renewable fuels credits (RIN credits) at Triton Energy LLC, a company that purported to produce and sell biofuel for use as transportation fuel.
Fred Witmer, 46, and Gary Jury, 58, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Magistrate Judge Susan Collins of the Northern District of Indiana, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett for the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott of the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office.
According to their pleas, Witmer and Jury were co-owners of Triton Energy LLC and Gen2 Renewable Diesel LLC, both located in Waterloo, Indiana. Witmer admitted to participating in a scheme with other coconspirators to fraudulently claim tax credits and RIN credits on non-qualifying renewable fuel. Although the credits required that the fuel be used domestically for transportation, Witmer admitted selling it for uses that included the production of fire starter logs and asphalt and also for power generation. Jury admitted to participating in a conspiracy to fraudulently claim tax credits and to providing false statements to the EPA.
As part of their pleas, Witmer agreed to serve a sentence of 57 months’ incarceration and Jury agreed to serve a sentence of 30 months’ incarceration. A sentencing hearing, has not yet been scheduled.
“Witmer, Jury, and their co-conspirators defrauded a program Congress had enacted to incentivize the production of biofuels and to help modernize our nation’s energy economy,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “These serious crimes undermine these important public policies and this case demonstrates they will not go unpunished. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those seeking to manipulate these programs for personal gain.”
“Eliminating fraud in the renewable fuels market is key to achieving the greenhouse gas reductions Congress intended under the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Assistant Administrator Giles. “EPA is committed to holding those who violate the law accountable and ensuring a level playing field for companies that follow the rules.”
“When individuals, such as Mr. Witmer, Mr. Jury and their co-conspirators, use fraud and deceitful measures to take advantage of federal tax credits and incentives for personal gain, the harm is felt by all American taxpayers and our economy,” said Deputy Chief Don Fort for IRS-CI. “IRS-CI will continue to vigorously pursue individuals who attempt to undermine our tax system.”
“The FBI was pleased to be part of another renewable fuel fraud investigation in the state of Indiana, in this case targeting Mr. Witmer, Mr. Jury and their co-conspirators,” said Special Agent in Charge Abbott. “This fraud scheme also victimized U.S. Taxpayers who believe those who participate in these programs should abide by the rules which govern them. This multi-agency effort is indicative of the commitment of resources by the FBI against perpetrators seeking to take advantage of incentivized programs in place to modernize our domestic energy programs”
Wire Fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison. False Statements to the EPA is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Assistant Attorney General Cruden commended the cooperative investigation by law enforcement, as well as Department of Justice Trial Attorney Adam Cullman and Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy Korzenik, who represented the United States in this case.