Tennessee Couple Busted in Fake Biodiesel Scheme

John Davis

scalesofjustice1Officials in Tennessee are cracking down on those trying to bilk the state out of money for biodiesel, maintaining the integrity of the state’s program. This article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press says John and Lisa Brichetto both were found guilty of trying to take the state of nearly $150,000 in a fake biodiesel energy scheme.

The Brichettos were the principals in Northington Energy LLC, which received grants and loans to build a biodiesel fuel manufacturing facility near Wartburg, [Russell Johnson, district attorney for the 9th Judicial District] said.

The News Sentinel newspaper in Knoxville in 2011 quoted former economic development official Becky Ruppe as saying the county hoped to capitalize on the energy development.

In addition to the grants and loans to the Brichettos — only $4,908 of which was actually used to buy equipment, according to Johnson — the state put in $293,000 worth of utilities and $150,000 for a road in the Flat Fork Industrial Park. The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave $25,000 for site improvements and Morgan County chipped in $9,000.

“We gained a lot of infrastructure for a little bit of money,” Ruppe told the News Sentinel in 2011.

But the biodiesel plant, completed in late 2008, never went into production, and a local bank later foreclosed on the 7,500-square-foot facility, the newspaper reported.

The Brichettos originally were indicted in May 2011, but several delays kept the trial to coming to fruition until now.