A federal grand jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has returned an indictment against Thomas Farmer, a former executive of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Crowley Liner Services, for participating in a conspiracy to fix rates and surcharges for freight transported by water between the continental United States and Puerto Rico.
The Justice Department's indictment, filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court in San Juan, said Farmer, the former vice president of price and yield management at Crowley, and co-conspirators from other companies, sought to suppress and eliminate competition by agreeing to fix rates and surcharges for Puerto Rico freight services from at least as early as mid-2005 until at least April 2008.
Farmer is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.
Crowley, Horizon Lines, and Sea Star, and six executives from those firms, have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Five of the individuals and the three companies have been ordered to serve sentences ranging from seven months to four years in prison and pay more than $46 million in criminal fines. The sixth individual, Frank Peake, former president of Sea Star Line, was convicted at trial in January and is currently scheduled to be sentenced on May 31.
The Justice Department said the indictment against Farmer is part of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anti-competitive conduct in the coastal water freight transportation industry. - Chris Dupin