Utah biodiesel execs linked to polygamous group
Salt Lake City – Two executives of a Salt Lake City biodiesel company linked to a polygamous group could flee to Turkey if they are released ahead of trial on charges in a $500 million tax credit scheme, federal prosecutors said in court documents unsealed ahead of a Wednesday court hearing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah also said the men were apparently tipped off before a 2016 raid by an unidentified federal agent, allowing them to hide documents and wipe hard drives that could have contained evidence.
Washakie Renewable Energy CEO Jacob Kingston and CFO Isaiah Kingston have pleaded not guilty to creating fake production records to get renewable-fuel tax credits from 2010 to 2016, then laundering the proceeds. The company once described itself as the largest producer of clean burning and sustainable biodiesel in the state.
Defense attorney Scott Williams told the Deseret News the allegations against his client, Isaiah Kingston, are based on “unfounded, inflammatory innuendo.” No attorney has been listed for Jacob Kingston.
Prosecutors said both men are members of the northern Utah-based Kingston Group, which practices polygamy and owns hundreds of businesses in and around the state. Investigators said in court documents members have previously hidden people wanted by police.
Members of the group did not immediately return phone messages left Wednesday seeking comment.
Federal agents raided offices and homes during their investigation in February 2016. They said they found computers had been recently wiped, that desks were empty and bookcases contained dust outlines where binders of documents had been stored.
It’s not clear how executives allegedly knew about the sealed search warrants, but investigators have said Jacob Kingston told a witness he was tipped off by a federal agent. Investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service are among those that have worked on the case.
Meanwhile, Washakie has invested at least $130 million in Turkey, and the brothers own a home there, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. Jacob Kingston was arrested last week at the Salt Lake City airport with his wife and some of his children as they were about to head to Turkey, prosecutors said.
Their co-defendant, California businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, has a private plane and previously flew to Turkey when investigators served search warrants on his home, prosecutors said. No attorney was listed for him in court records.
If convicted of charges that include filing a false tax return and money laundering, Jacob Kingstson faces up to 87 years in prison. Isaiah Kingston faces up to 20 years.