Federal court denies ex-Celadon COO’s request for birthday trip to Mexico

An indicted former Celadon executive wanted to travel to Mexico for his 40th birthday at the end of 2020. But he won’t be going.

A federal judge this week ruled that William Meek, the former COO of bankrupt and shuttered Celadon, cannot travel to the Cancun region in December to celebrate his birthday, a trip that Meek said in court documents had been paid for just a few days before his arrest last December. 

In the collapse of Celadon, Meeks and CFO Bobby Lee Peavler were charged with nine counts each, including 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 counts of making false statements to a public company’s accountants. The accounting scandal at Celadon ultimately led to the company’s demise despite a new management team’s efforts at rescuing the company.

In handing down the ruling, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Indiana agreed mostly right down the line with the arguments that federal prosecutors had submitted in opposition to Meek being given his passport back and being allowed to travel with another couple — and without their minor children — to the Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya Resort south of Cancun. 

“The Court finds that Mr. Meek’s requested international travel is not advisable,” Magnus-Stinson wrote in her decision. “As an initial matter, international travel generally increases the risk of flight. Moreover, the reason for the travel — Mr. Meek’s fortieth birthday — is not the sort of extraordinary event that presents good cause to incur a risk.”

The judge then cited several other points: Trip insurance had been purchased, so Meek would not be losing all his funds, and he waited for several months after his arrest to make the request, even though he knew at the time he was taken into custody that the trip was scheduled and purchased.

While the judge’s arguments in denial of the request were relatively cut and dried, the prosecution laid out more colorful arguments just a few days before the ruling. For example, prosecutors strongly objected to Meek’s argument, noted in his filing, that he wouldn’t flee because his minor children would be staying back with grandparents in the U.S. “Minor children are not a sort of surety bond,” prosecutors argued, saying the proposal was “inappropriate and ineffectual.”

“Were Meek to flee, it would not be appropriate for the government to seek recourse against his children by refusing to return their passports and barring their foreign travel to keep them [from] reuniting with their parents,” prosecutors wrote to the court.

The conditions of Meek’s pretrial release are “not strenuous” and “balance the seriousness of the charges with the relatively low risk of flight Meek poses,” the prosecutors added. “No added risk of flight is warranted when his purpose for obtaining his passport and traveling internationally is nothing more than to party with his friends in Mexico.”

In his request for permission to travel, Meek said his pretrial services officer, when approached about any objections to the Mexico trip, expressed none. 

“Mr. Meek and his family have been upstanding members of the Indianapolis community for years, and Mr. Meek fully intends to stand trial so that he can be vindicated and restore his reputation,” Meek’s attorneys wrote in the request.

The start of the trial against Meeks and CFO Bobby Lea Peavler is now set for May 3, 2021. 

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