(NaturalNews) What would you do to obtain a piece of U.S. military history? If you're Jeffrey David Gunselman, you might resort to defrauding the government.
According to court records, Gunselman - CEO of Absolute Fuel, a biodiesel fuel company - has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas for lying about producing bio-diesel fuel and selling the resulting renewable fuel credits for $41.7 million, using some of those proceeds to buy a Patton tank.
Gunselman, 30, was indicted on 79 counts of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements under the Clean Air Act. In addition to Absolute Fuel, four other entities Gunselman controlled were named in the charges. Prosecutors say he conspired to generate and sell phony fuel credits to oil companies and brokers between September 2010 and October 2011.
The credits are known as Renewable Identification Numbers. They are a creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which developed them for nonrenewable fuel producers and importers to buy in order to meet federal requirements "to include a percentage of renewable fuel in the fossil fuel they sell each year," Courthouse News Service reported.
Prosecutors allege that Gunselman, of Lubbock, Texas, violated federal law when he generated some 48 million RINs without actually producing any biodiesel fuel.
List of goodies purchased with ill-gotten gains
"Gunselman and each corporate defendant falsely stated to employees of EPA contractor Bionetics Corporation, conducting a compliance inspection of Absolute Fuels LLC, as authorized by the EPA, that documents and records requested for review by the EPA were not available because defendants had been 'extremely busy' and 'unable to assemble' the documents, and 'needed more time' to assemble the documents when, as the defendants well knew, said records did not exist," said the indictment.
Court documents say Gunselman falsely said he was in the business of producing bio-diesel fuel though he never owned a facility to produce it.
Under terms of the 2007 law requiring the purchase of RINs, refiners are required to produce a total of one billion gallons annually of bio-diesel, which can be manufactured using soy oil or leftover restaurant grease. "Under the EPA rules, instead of making the fuel themselves, refiners can buy credits from other producers to fulfill their obligations," Bloomberg Businessweek noted.
Prosecutors said Gunselman sold the phony credits via 51 separate transactions to fossil fuel producers Citgo, Tesoro, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, Sunoco and BP.
According to reports, Gunselman used part of the proceeds to make a number of extravagant purchases: $1.6 million for a Gulfstream jet aircraft, $2.78 million on homes in Lubbock and Boerne, more than $700,000 on several sports cars, $100,000 on credits at Las Vegas casinos, $166,000 on San Antonio Spurs NBA season tickets and corporate sponsorship, and last but not least, $355,000 on a demilitarized Patton, which came in two versions - the earlier M48 and later M60.
EPA program ripe for abuse?
In all, according to court papers, Gunselman "obtained money through the wire transfer scheme and used it to purchase real and personal luxury property and commodities in excess of $30 million."
Apparently, Gunselman's alleged fraud is par for the course regarding such instances of fraud. In fact, lobbyists for refiners told a congressional panel in July that the EPA has permitted such widespread fraud in the government-mandated biodiesel credits market.
President of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Charles Drevna, said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight panel that fraud victims were being penalized because the EPA forces refiners to buy replacement credits, according to Bloomberg.
"We are aware of no other government program that penalizes the victims of fraud," Drevna testified.
Authorities are seeking the forfeiture of $42 million along with the real estate, vehicles, airplane and other items.