The owners of a Cumberland County biofuel company allegedly claimed fraudulent tax refunds on a fuel tax credit program, according to a superseding indictment filed Wednesday in Pennsylvania’s Middle District federal court.
The indictment said that Keystone Biofuels president Ben Wootton, 52, of Pennsylvania, and CEO Race Miner, 48, of Colorado, conspired to defraud the IRS and aided and assisted in the filing of a false refund claim.
The charges are in addition to a May 2017 indictment against Wootton, Miner and their company alleging that they conspired to make and then subsequently made false statements to the EPA. Those charges stem from Keystone Biofuels’ claims that its products met the necessary standards to qualify as biodiesel, a renewable soy-based fuel.
According to the latest indictment, the tax credit for which the company fraudulently claimed refunds was available only for fuel that met specific requirements related to being mixed with diesel. The company gave a biodiesel label to fuel that was insufficiently mixed or not mixed at all. Furthermore, it created records of fuel that didn’t actually exist and falsified books for the mislabeled fuel, court papers show.
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The new charges are the result of an IRS investigation, which Wootton and Miner allegedly sought to obstruct, according to the indictment.
Miner’s attorney, Linda Dale Hoffa of Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson, declined comment. Wootton’s attorney, Joshua Lock of Lower Paxton Township-based Goldberg Katzman, could not be reached on Friday.
This round of charges is the latest setback for the company, once a promising pioneer in the Pennsylvania renewable fuel industry when it started production in 2005. Lower Allen Township-based Keystone Biofuels filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013. The industry never quite came back in the way the company had anticipated it would, and Keystone Biofuels closed up shop in 2014, the Business Journal reported last year.
A trial date has not yet been set, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Middle District court said. If convicted, the men face a maximum prison sentence of five years for conspiracy and three years for aiding and assisting in the filing of a false refund claim. They also face supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
Keystone Biofuels Indictment, January 2018 by Becca Oken-Tatum on Scribd