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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Extradited Former Air Cargo Executive Pleads Guilty for Participating in a Worldwide Price-Fixing Conspiracy

Longest Sentence Imposed in Air Cargo Investigation to Date

Maria Christina “Meta” Ullings, the former senior vice president of cargo sales and marketing for Martinair N.V. (Martinair Cargo) and a Dutch national, pleaded guilty for her role in a long-running air cargo price-fixing conspiracy, the Department of Justice announced. 

Ullings’ extradition is the second extradition on an antitrust charge.  A fugitive for almost 10 years, Ullings was apprehended by Italian authorities in July 2019 while visiting Sicily.  Ullings initially contested extradition in the Italian courts, but after the Court of Appeals of Palermo ruled that she be extradited, she waived her appeal.  She arrived in Atlanta on Jan. 10, 2020, and made her initial appearance on Jan. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  Ullings was sentenced to 14 months in prison with credit for the time she was held in the custody of the Italian government pending her extradition.  She has also been sentenced to pay a $20,000 criminal fine.    

“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s commitment to bringing those who violate the antitrust laws – wherever located – to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Antitrust Division and its partners are committed to rooting out international price-fixing cartels that cheat American consumers and producers.”

“The ultimate loser in price fixing schemes is the American consumer,” said Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.  “Individuals and companies that feel like they don’t need to follow the rules should understand the FBI and our federal law enforcement partners will pursue anyone who threatens our economy and our citizens.  We are committed to exposing these cases of corruption in the United States and around the world.”

Ullings pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing and coordinating certain surcharges, including fuel surcharges, charged to customers located in the United States and elsewhere for air cargo shipments.  These air cargo shipments included heavy equipment, perishable commodities, and consumer goods destined for American consumers and shipped by American producers.  Ullings participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as January 2001 until at least February 2006.  

Including Ullings, a total of 22 airlines and 21 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation into price fixing in the air transportation industry.  To date, more than $1.8 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and eight executives have been sentenced to serve prison time.

The investigation into the air transportation industry has been conducted by the Antitrust Division, the FBI, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General. Assistance with the extradition was provided by the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Marshals Service.  Anyone with information concerning price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section at 202-307-6694 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Updated January 23, 2020