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The Journal Gazette

September 23, 2016 1:02 AM

Triton owners face charges in tax fraud

Allegedly claimed millions of dollars in false tax credits

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette

A pair of northeast Indiana men are accused of defrauding the federal government in an alternative fuel scheme that allowed them to rake in millions of dollars in illegitimate tax credits.

On Monday, Fred Witmer and Gary Jury were each charged by a criminal information, and waived an indictment, filing immediate paperwork for a guilty plea. Witmer is charged with two counts of wire fraud, and Jury is charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and aiding and abetting the making of false statements.

The men co-owned Triton Energy LLC, 205 Industrial Parkway in Waterloo. Also listed at that address, and named in court documents, is Gen2 Renewable Diesel LLC.

According to court documents, the pair conspired to deal in renewable fuels, designated by law to be used as jet fuel, heating oil or transportation fuel, and the credits attached to those fuels under federal environmental protection laws.

Instead of selling those fuels, identified by a number attached to them specifically, for their legally designated use, Witmer and Jury sold them to make wood pellets, fire-starting logs and other items.

The pair instructed their staff to construct records indicating the fuels had been sold in the way they were intended, and destroy records that the fuels were sold for other uses, according to court documents.

From March 2011 to December 2011, Triton received more than $24 million for selling those identification numbers, no longer attached to the specific fuels. 

From March 2012 until March 2015, one of the companies that bought the fraudulent identification numbers sold them again, this time for $31.8 million, according to court documents.

Triton used another company to claim alternative fuel tax credits to which they were not entitled, according to court documents.

According to the guilty plea documents, Witmer agrees to pay $56 million in restitution to private victims and another $8 million to the U.S. Treasury Department.

If the judge accepts the plea agreement, Witmer will serve no more than 57 months in prison.

Witmer must also sell off a couple of coal mines and make every effort to dissolve his company within 12 months of his guilty plea hearing, scheduled for next month.

Jury also filed a guilty plea, in which he agrees to pay more than $8 million in restitution to the U.S. Treasury Department. In exchange for his guilty plea, Jury will spend no more than 30 months in a federal prison.