2 NE Miss men charged in $2.8M Miss. scam

False claims for biodiesel subsidies allegedly filed

OXFORD — A former owner and president of a Mississippi biodiesel manufacturing company and an imprisoned lawyer are accused of defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture out of $2.8 million by filing false claims for more than two years.

William Tacker II, 56, from Pontotoc, and H. Max Speight, 66, allegedly conspired to file false documents in order to receive subsidy money offered to bioenergy producers of both biodiesel and ethanol.

In a 10-count indictment, they are accused of submitting false claims pertaining to the amount of soybean oil used to produce biodiesel fuel and the amount of biodiesel fuel manufactured by Nettleton-based Biodiesel of Mississippi Inc.

Each man faces at least five years in prison and at least a $250,000 fine if convicted under the nine-page indictment.

Tacker was president of Biodiesel of Mississippi Inc., which specialized in making fuel out of soybeans. The company filed for bankruptcy in February 2006 and was later sold. Last week a judge ordered the Chapter 11 proceeding closed.

Tacker is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen. He is out on a $10,000 bond after making an initial appearance in court on March 31.

Speight, 66, a former lawyer from Martin, Tenn., who was the fuel company’s corporate secretary, is currently serving time for stealing money from clients and investing it into the biodiesel company.

The government offered subsidies to companies that increased production in alternative fuels from year to year. The government would give $1 per gallon of biodiesel.

From about July 29, 2003, to about Jan. 30, 2006, the two allegedly conspired to file the false documents, claiming they produced more fuel than the year before. The government alleges that when it attempted to audit the company, the men filed more fake documents to hide their illegal activity.

Tacker could not be reached for comment. Speight’s attorney, Al Harvey of Memphis, would not comment about the recent indictment because he had not seen it yet.

A biodiesel trade magazine said the company was sold to a Virgin Islands business in late 2006. A woman who answered the phone at La Croix International said she could not answer questions about the company.

In April 2008, Speight, a former real-estate attorney, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to eight counts of stealing more than $1 million in clients’ money and investing it into the biodiesel operation rather than into real-estate accounts.

The bankruptcy attorney for Biodiesel of Mississippi, Stephen Rosenblatt of the Butler Snow law firm in Jackson, couldn’t be reached for comment.

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