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SALT LAKE CITY — A FedEx Ground manager and the owners of several Utah trucking companies have been charged in an alleged “pay-to-play” bribery scheme, indictments unsealed Monday show.
The trucking company owners are accused of paying upwards of $1 million in bribes over the past decade to 47-year-old Ryan Mower of Bountiful, the highest-ranking FedEx Ground employee in Utah, for more than 10 years.
In exchange for the bribes, authorities say, the trucking companies received hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, which included money for extra routes that should not have been assigned to those companies, falsely reported accidents and additional mileage, and “ghost routes” — trips that were recorded but never actually took place.
“Here in the U.S. we have the assumption that we’re all going to play by the rules and play fairly,” said Tyler Murray, head of the financial crimes section for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah, in a news conference Monday. “This case shows what can happen when someone doesn’t compete fairly.”
As senior linehaul manager for the FedEx Ground hub in North Salt Lake, a position he held from 2008 until this month, Mower oversaw local trucking companies that had contracts with FedEx.
Mower and nine other defendants named Monday now face between them 51 charges in U.S. District Court, including various forms of wire fraud and money laundering — while authorities seize 25 pieces of property, 60 bank accounts, and numerous cars, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, guns and pieces of jewelry.
“These individuals allegedly exchanged bribes for business opportunities, and, as a result, lined their pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on property, luxury cars and other extravagances,” said Paul Haertel, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City field office, in a statement.
One of the indictments unsealed Monday names Mower and five other defendants involved with Salt Lake Trucking Group, which is made up of several local trucking companies that contract with FedEx.
The five other defendants paid Mower more than $300,000 over the course of 10 years, the indictment alleges, and took in about $150 million in FedEx revenue during that time.
Those five 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, N.C.; and Felix Tsipelzon, 48, of South Jordan.
Another indictment names Hubert Ivan Ugarte, 52, of Draper, who owned and operated 17 trucking companies. Over a span of eight years, authorities say, Ugarte’s companies received $90 million in FedEx Ground revenue and paid Mower at least $490,000 in bribes.
Davor Kovacevic and Zlate Balulovski, both 41 and both of West Jordan, took in more than $21 million in FedEx Ground revenue for their multiple trucking companies since 2012, while paying Mower about $165,000 in bribes, a third indictment claims.
And William Shayne Murdock, 42, of Providence, is accused of paying Mower at least $50,000 in bribes and receiving about $19 million in revenue in return. The bribes from Murdock began in 2014, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for Utah.
The 51 charges include five counts of filing false tax returns for Mower, who allegedly did not include the bribe money in individual income tax returns.
Balulovski, Kovacevic, Barsukov, Tsipelzon, Tomilin and Murdock were arrested Friday and appeared for the first time Monday in federal court. Tuchinsky was also arrested Friday, but in San Diego, where a detention hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Ugarte, and Mower has been issued a summons for an initial appearance Wednesday.
Teyf is in federal custody in North Carolina in an unrelated case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Several of the charges involved — wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, promotional money laundering, and concealment of money laundering — carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison. A person convicted of money laundering can face up to 10 years in prison, while filing a false tax return has a potential maximum sentence of three years per count.
“Fair play, honest dealings, and transparency are core values in the American business landscape,” said U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber in a statement. “Bribery and corrupt practices are not.”