Former Celadon Execs Indicted for Fraud
INDIANAPOLIS - The former chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Indianapolis-based Celadon Group Inc. are facing multiple fraud charges. The U.S. Department of Justice says William Eric Meek and Bobby Lee Peavler have been indicted for their alleged roles in a securities and accounting fraud scheme that resulted in a more than $60 million drop in shareholder value.
The indictment alleges Meek, Peavler, and others at Celadon knew by 2016 the value of a large portion of the company's trucks had declined in value, and many of them had serious mechanical issues. The defendants allegedly hatched a scheme to conceal tens of millions of dollars in losses from shareholders, banks and the public instead of accounting for the decline in truck values.
The scheme, according to the indictment, involved trading away hundreds of older and unused trucks to a large truck dealer in exchange for newer used trucks. The defendants allegedly inflated the prices on the trade invoices to make it seem as if Celadon's trucks were worth more than their actual value. The executives also allegedly identified the transactions as independent purchases and sales, rather than trades.
The indictment says the defendants allegedly lied to Celadon's independent auditors who had inquired about the truck trades.
Meek and Peavler were each charged 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 faces two additional charges of making false statements to a public company's accountants.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said in a news release. “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.”
The pair was arrested Thursday morning and released on bail.
Earlier this year, Celadon entered a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the federal government related to the scheme. As a result, the company agreed to pay more than $42 million in restitution.
Additionally, Danny Williams, who previously led the Celadon subsidiary at the center of the scheme, pleaded guilty in April to many of the same charges facing Meek and Peavler.