A former biodiesel company owner who pleaded guilty for his role in selling more than 60 million bogus US biofuel credits to oil companies and brokers was sentenced Monday to more than 10 years in prison.
Philip Joseph Rivkin, who operated and controlled Green Diesel, a company that US authorities accused of generating the invalid biomass-based diesel RINs without producing qualifying renewable fuel, was sentenced in Houston by a federal judge to 121 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay more than $87 million in restitution and forfeit $51 million in profits from his RINs fraud.
Rivkin in June 2015 had pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. He had been arrested in June 2014.
"Rivkin's abuse of the biodiesel program, a program designed to further our nation's energy independence and combat climate change, was an abuse against the American people," said US Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden. "This sentence should send a strong message that those committing fraud in the biodiesel program will be vigorously prosecuted and sent to prison."
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The case is one of several RINs fraud schemes uncovered by federal authorities starting in 2012, as the Renewable Fuel Standard began to pick up steam.
RINs are 38-digit numbers assigned to each gallon of renewable fuel produced or imported, and can be bought and sold on the open market. They are used by refiners to demonstrate compliance with the RFS, which requires a certain amount of biofuels to be blended in with US transportation fuel supplies annually.
Three companies, Green Diesel, Absolute Fuels and Clean Green Fuels, were charged by federal authorities in 2012 with selling a combined 148 million fake RINs. In 2013, Imperial Petroleum and e-Biofuels, a subsidiary, were charged with generating more than 33 million fake RINs. Individuals affiliated with Absolute, Clean Green and e-Biofuels have been sentenced already.
In July 2014, the EPA finalized a voluntary quality assurance plan for the RFS program, which provides independent audits of renewable fuel production to ensure RINs are authentic.
Despite the RINs verification program, US authorities continue to uncover more fraud. In 2015, US authorities charged New Energy Fuels with generating 10.2 million invalid biodiesel RINs, Chieftain Biofuels with generating more than 4.8 million invalid biodiesel RINs and Washakie Renewable Energy with generating more than 7.2 million invalid RINs.
--Herman Wang, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Lisa Miller, email@example.com