Man accused of $90M biodiesel scam pleads guilty

The ringleader of an alleged $90 million biodiesel scam has agreed to plead guilty to 37 felony counts, including conspiracy and wire fraud, in a deal with federal prosecutors.

Joseph Furando, 49, of New Jersey, is scheduled to appear at a change-of-plea hearing Wednesday afternoon in Indianapolis. He had been scheduled to face a jury trial scheduled for May 11.

Furando and several accomplices are accused of sending biodiesel fuel that got renewable fuel credits to a Middletown facility operated by the now-bankrupt E-Biofuels LLC, which falsely claimed it made the fuel to get more credits. Federal prosecutors also said they sold the fuel as 100-percent biofuel, but that it contained some petroleum diesel.

A U.S. attorney said in 2013 that the scam allowed the conspirators to charge more than what the biofuel was worth, and that they got tax credits and other benefits that they shouldn't have received. Prosecutors say customers who bought the fuel were defrauded of more than $55 million, while the IRS lost $35 million in tax breaks and renewable energy credits.

According to prosecutors, Furando has a "history of violence" that includes bending backward an employee's finger and threatening to stab and blackmail the president of the Middletown facility. Authorities say Pattison reached out to an assistant U.S. attorney in 2013 after Furando threatened to kill her.

Furando sent Pattison text messages that showed he was furious about her contacting the assistant U.S. attorney and he told her suicide was her only option, prosecutors say.

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