Utah trucking companies’ owners named in federal indictments

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It remains to be seen what, if anything, might happen to drivers and other employees for a number of trucking companies, including those that are part of an umbrella organization, named in federal indictments Monday, Oct. 28. Also named in the indictments was a Salt Lake City FedEx Ground hub manager in a so-called “pay to play” bribery scheme.

Indictments unsealed in U.S. District Court Monday afternoon allege owners of several trucking companies in Utah paid bribes to the Utah FedEx Ground hub manager Ryan Lee Mower, 47, of Bountiful, Utah. He was FXG’s highest-ranking employee in Utah from at least 2008 to October 2019. Nine other people were also named in the indictments.

Trucking company owners, including some that are part of the Salt Lake Trucking Group, are accused of paying more than $1 million in bribes to Mower. In return, the companies received preferential treatment and payment from FedEx Ground for routes that should not have been assigned to those companies, falsely reported accidents, and trips that were recorded but never actually driven. A statement from the U.S. Attorney said the companies received about $150 million from FedEx Ground.

Mower and the nine other defendants named in the indictments face a total of 51 charges, including wire fraud, money laundering and tax fraud. Mower was charged with five counts of filing false tax returns in a Felony Information document unsealed Monday.

Five defendants named in one indictment allegedly paid Mower more than $300,000 over 10 years. Their companies were paid about $150 million by FedEx in that time. Those defendants are Yevgeny Felix Tuchinsky, 59, of Salt Lake City and San Diego; Alexsander Vasiliyevich Barsukov, 52, of Salt Lake City; Konstantin Mikhaylovich Tomilin, 50, who has homes in Salt Lake City and Pennsylvania; Leonid Isaakovich Teyf, 58, of Raleigh, North Carolina; and Felix Tsipelzon, 48, of South Jordan, Utah.

Another indictment names Hubert Ivan Ugarte, 52, of Draper, Utah who operated 17 trucking companies. Ugarte’s companies received $90 million in FedEx Ground revenue and paid Mower at least $490,000 in bribes over a span of eight years.

Davor Kovacevic and Zlate Balulovski, both 41 and both of West Jordan, Utah are alleged in another indictment to have taken in more than $21 million in FedEx Ground payments to their trucking companies since 2012. They are said to have paid Mower about $165,000 in bribes.

William Shayne Murdock, 42, of Providence, Utah is accused of paying Mower at least $50,000 in bribes since 2014 and receiving about $19 million in revenue in, according to U.S. Attorney for Utah.

Announcing the indictments were U.S. Attorney for Utah John W. Huber, Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan of IRS-Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Dubsick of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, and Michael Mentavlos, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Southwest Field Office.

“Fair play, honest dealings, and transparency are core values in the American business landscape. Bribery and corrupt practices are not,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber. “The conduct alleged in the indictment not only runs counter to societal expectations for American business, it runs afoul of the laws of the United States. The alleged unjust enrichment comes at the expense of those who play by the rules in the market place.”

In a statement shared with Salt Lake City’s KUTV television station, FedEx said:

To be clear, we are disappointed by the egregious activity of these individuals and are fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of this criminal behavior. FedEx Ground does not tolerate illegal activity. We expect all employees and service providers to act with the highest ethical standards and we take very seriously this deliberate evasion of the company’s compliance programs. The dollar figure outlined in the indictments represents the total amount of money paid to those indicted under their scheme. The vast majority of this money was payment for work that was actually performed. Therefore, because FedEx Ground would have paid to have that work performed in any event, the net financial loss to FedEx Ground is a small fraction of this amount and is not material.”

The potential maximum penalty for wire fraud conspiracy/wire fraud is 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s statement.  Promotional money laundering and concealment of money laundering counts each have potential 20-year sentences.  The potential sentence for money laundering is up to 10 years in prison. Filing a false tax return has a potential maximum sentence of three years per count.

The statement issued by the U.S. Attorney added, “Indictments are not findings of guilt. Defendants charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.”