Houston man gets 10 years in prison for biodiesel fraud

Source: Robin Bravender, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2016

Philip Joseph Rivkin — also known as Felipe Poitan Arriaga — was sentenced today to more than 10 years in prison for generating and selling fraudulent biodiesel credits.

Last year, the Houston resident and owner of several biodiesel companies pleaded guilty to fraudulently creating renewable fuel credits. The government accused Rivkin of fraudulently selling $29 million of renewable fuel credits to oil companies and brokers in 2010 and 2011. Refiners purchase the credits to comply with renewable fuel mandates (E&ENews PM, June 16, 2015).

A federal court in Houston sentenced Rivkin to 121 months in prison and three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay more than $87 million in restitution. He was also ordered to forfeit $51 million for generating and selling fraudulent biodiesel credits in the federal renewable fuel program, according to the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“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,” Assistant Attorney General John Cruden said. “This sentence should send a strong message that those committing fraud in the biodiesel program will be vigorously prosecuted and sent to prison.”

The government’s 2014 indictment sought the forfeiture of more than $29 million in cash, sports cars including a Lamborghini and Maserati, and a private jet.

Federal investigators began pursuing Rivkin in April 2012 as part of a broader effort to crack down on renewable fuel fraud. Rivkin, however, had fled to Guatemala and assumed the name Felipe Poitan Arriaga. He was arrested in Houston in 2014 after he was expelled from Guatemala for having fraudulently obtained citizenship, according to U.S. EPA.