US biodiesel fuel company owner fined for fraud and Clean Air Act crimes

17 Jun 2015


The US Environment Protection agency (EPA) has imposed a fine of $51 million on biodiesel fuel company owner for fraud and crimes related to Clean Air Act. 

Philip Joseph Rivkin, aka Felipe Poitan Arriaga, 50, has pleaded guilty to a Clean Air Act false statement and mail fraud as part of his role in a scheme to defraud US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by falsely representing that he was producing millions of gallons of biodiesel fuel.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Rivkin faces more than 10 years in prison and will be responsible for $51 million in restitution to help reimburse victims.

''These crimes are a serious threat to an important program that helps combat climate change,'' said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at the US Environmental Protection Agency. ''For undermining the renewable fuels standard, Mr Rivkin will pay substantial fines and restitution, and he also faces significant prison time. Companies and individual managers should get the message that there are serious consequences for breaking the rules and undermining the integrity of this program.''

In the plea agreement, Rivkin admitted that from July 2010 to July 2011, he devised the biodiesel fraud scheme as his business operation falsely generated renewable fuel credits, known as renewable identification numbers (RINs), and sold them to oil companies and brokers for more than $29 million.

On 30 April 2012, EPA issued Green Diesel, LLC a Notice of Violation (NOV).  The NOV alleged the company generated more than 60 million invalid biomass-based diesel RINs without producing any qualifying renewable fuel, and transferred the majority of these invalid RINs to others. On 18 June 2014, two US Secret Service Agents arrested Rivkin in Houston after he was expelled from Guatemala, which had expelled him for having fraudulently secured Guatemalan citizenship.

The next day, a 68-count indictment was returned against Rivkin for charges including Clean Air Act false statements, wire fraud, mail fraud, and for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity.

The indictment included a notice of forfeiture to include: cash in excess of $29 million; three vehicles, including a Lamborghini, Maserati, and a Bentley; a Canadair LTD airplane; and millions of dollars worth of artwork that was previously seized from Rivkin in 2012 and was included in a civil action for forfeiture.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set annual volume targets for four categories of biofuels to ensure that transportation fuel sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuel. By displacing fossil fuels, biofuels help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help strengthen energy security.

This case was investigated by US EPA-Criminal Investigation Division, US Secret Service, IRS-Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Houston Area Fraud Task Force, Houston Ship Channel Initiative and Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force.

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