Pennsylvania Biofuel Company Owners Charged with Fraudulently Claiming Fuel Tax Credits
Two owners of a Pennsylvania biofuel company were charged in a superseding indictment today with conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and aiding and assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent fuel tax credit refund claim, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney David J. Freed for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
According to the superseding indictment, Ben Wootton, of Pennsylvania, and Race Miner, of Colorado owned and operated Keystone Biofuels Inc., located in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania, and later in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Wootton, serving as President, and Miner, serving as Chief Executive Officer, are alleged to have participated in a conspiracy to defraud the IRS by, among other things, fraudulently claiming tax refunds based on the Biodiesel Mixture Credit – a federal excise tax credit for persons or businesses who mix biodiesel with diesel fuel and use or sell the mixture as a fuel. Biodiesel is a type of renewable fuel that meets a set of specific requirements.
According to the superseding indictment, the Biodiesel Mixture Credit was available only on fuel meeting those requirements that the claimant had mixed with diesel fuel. Wootton and Miner allegedly caused Keystone to fraudulently seek tax refunds from the IRS by claiming the credit based on non-qualifying and, in at least some instances, non-existent or non-mixed fuel. The indictment further alleges that Wootton and Miner created false books and records and supporting documents to account for the nonexistent fuel; engaged in a series of sham financial transactions to give the false books and records the appearance of legitimacy; and sought to obstruct an ongoing IRS investigation by providing false documentation to an IRS Special Agent.
These charges are in addition to those previously lodged against Wootton and Miner. In a May 2017 indictment, both men, along with Keystone Biofuels Inc., were charged with conspiring to make false statements to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and making false statements to the EPA.
If convicted, Wootton and Miner face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiracy and three years in prison for aiding and assisting in the filing of a false refund claim. They also face a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood, and U.S. Attorney Freed praised special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation and the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey MacArthur, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lastra, Trial Attorneys Mark Kotila and Kimberly Ang of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Senior Litigation Counsel Howard P. Stewart of the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section, who are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.