Former Top Celadon Executives Arrested and Charged With Slew of Crimes
Indianapolis, IN – Two former senior executives of a mega carrier were arrested on Thursday after being indicted on a slew of fraud-related crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The former chief operating officer (COO) and chief financial officer (CFO) of Indianapolis-based trucking company, Celadon, were charged for their alleged role in a complex securities and accounting fraud scheme that resulted in a loss of more than $60 million in shareholder value, the DOJ says.
William Eric Meek, 39, and Bobby Lee Peavler, 40, both of Indianapolis, were each charged in an indictment filed in the Southern District of Indiana with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and securities fraud; five counts of wire fraud; two counts of securities fraud; one count of conspiracy to make false statements to a public company’s accountants and to falsify books, records, and accounts of a public company; and one count of making false statements to a public company’s accountants.
Peavler was charged with two additional counts of making false statements to a public company’s accountants.
Meek and Peavler were arrested Thursday morning, according to DOJ officials.
Both men appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore of the Southern District of Indiana and were released on bail.
According to the indictment, by approximately 2016, Meek, Peavler, and others at Celadon knew the value of a substantial portion of Celadon’s trucks declined in value in part to a slowdown in the trucking market.
In addition, many of those trucks, which were owned by Quality Companies (Quality), a division of Celadon, had serious mechanical issues that made them unattractive to drivers, further depressing their value.
Instead of accounting for this decline in truck values, Meek, Peavler and others allegedly devised a scheme that caused Celadon to conceal tens of millions of dollars in losses to its shareholders, banks and the investing public.
Their scheme involved Quality trading away hundreds of its older and unused trucks to a large truck dealer in exchange for newer used trucks.
During the trades, they intentionally inflated the prices on invoices associated with those trades so Celadon’s books would not reflect the fact that Celadon’s trucks were worth significantly less than reported to investors, the indictment alleges.
Although they were actually trades, Meek, Peavler, and others allegedly sought to portray the transactions as independent “purchases” and “sales” of trucks in order to avoid heightened scrutiny, prosecutors allege.
Meek and Peavler also allegedly structured one of the trades in an effort to artificially improve one of Celadon’s quarterly financial statements.
Quality received approximately $25 million from the truck dealer just before the end of Celadon’s fiscal quarter, which Celadon used to pay down its debt and appear to be in compliance with certain lending agreements.
Meek, Peavler, and others allegedly failed to disclose, however, that as part of this deal, Quality had agreed to pay a similar amount of money back to the truck dealer three days after quarter-end.
Celadon’s quarterly financial statements made no mention of this secret agreement, the indictment alleges.
In late 2016 and early 2017, Celadon’s independent auditors began to ask questions about the truck trades that Meek, Peavler, and others had used to hide the drop in truck values.
In response, Meek, Peavler and others allegedly made false and misleading statements to the auditors about the nature of the trade transactions, falsely denying they were trades and concealing the terms of these trades, including Quality’s agreement to pay money back to the truck dealer shortly after quarter-end.
According to DOJ officials, Peavler also directed a senior executive and co-conspirator to delete certain emails after the auditor had make a request for relevant documents.
In May 2017, Celadon announced that its financial statements issued for fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, 2016, as well as the quarters ending in September and December 2016 could no longer be relied on, not could the related reports of the independent auditor for those three time periods.
Following this announcement, Celadon’s share price dropped significantly, causing a one-day loss in Celadon’s market value of approximately $62.3 million.
In April 2019, Danny Williams, 36, of New Palestine, IN, the former head of Quality, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, make false statements to a public company’s accountants, and falsify books, records, and accounts of a public company.
Also in April 2019, Celadon itself entered a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the government, under which it is obligated to pay restitution of $42.2 million.
“These senior corporate executives at Celadon allegedly orchestrated a securities and accounting fraud scheme that misled shareholders, banks, accountants, and the investing public,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“Through their scheme of lies, fraud and misrepresentations as alleged in the Indictment, Meek and Peavler damaged the integrity of the market, the corporation, its shareholders and public investors,” said U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler of the Southern District of Indiana. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting those individuals in corporate America, who choose to commit corporate fraud, in violation of federal law, and have blatant disregard for those with a financial interest in the corporation.”
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow this case.
Photo courtesy of Celadon
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