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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Keystone Biofuels' Wootton, Miner sentenced to prison for fraud scheme

Two biofuel company owners, Ben Wootton and Race Miner of Keystone Biofuels, were sentenced to prison for conspiracy and making false statements to the U.S. EPA, and for conspiracy to defraud the IRS and preparing a false tax claim. Wootton and Miner were each sentenced to more than five years after a jury convicted them and their company in April 2019. Keystone Biofuels was originally located in Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania, and later in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

"Wootton and Miner actively engaged in a multimillion-dollar scheme designed to rob the government and line their own pockets," said Jim Lee, chief of IRS criminal investigations. Today, they learned there is a steep price to be paid for such greed."

Miner was the founder and CEO of Keystone Biofuels and Wootton the president. According to the U.S. government, they and the company falsely represented their ability to produce ASTM-spec biodiesel, which would allow them to generate RIN credits under the Renewable Fuel Standard. RINs have value and can be sold, bought and traded.

Wootton and Miner were also convicted of fraudulently claiming the $1 per gallon federal biodiesel tax credit. According to the justice department, the company fraudulently claimed tax refunds based on nonqualifying, nonexistent or nonmixed biodiesel.

"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 nonqualifying fuel, and to create the appearance of legitimacy," the U.S. government stated.

The prosecution of Wootton, Miner and Keystone Biofuels is the first prosecution of a case under the RFS based on fuel that did not meet the quality specification, according to the justice department.

"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," said Jonathan Brightbill, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the justice department's environment and natural resources division.

Michael Driscoll, special agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia field office, said, "The only green resource these two cared about was money, and they told lie after lie to perpetuate their fraud. 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."

The court ordered both Wootton and Miner to pay restitution of more than $4 million to the IRS and more than $5 million to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. They will also be on three years of supervised release once released from prison.



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