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Press Release

Senior Operations Executive Pleads Guilty To Defrauding International Cargo Airline Employer

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the guilty plea today of CARLTON LLEWELLYN in connection with a massive scheme to defraud Polar Air Cargo Worldwide, Inc. (“Polar”), a leading cargo airline, of tens of millions of dollars in revenue and the honest services of its employees.  LLEWELLYN pled guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Carlton Llewellyn was a senior executive entrusted with running the operations of a leading cargo airline.  He betrayed that trust and engaged in a kickback scheme to defraud his employer and enrich himself, and his plea is another step toward rooting out corporate fraud.” 

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment and statements made in public filings and public court proceedings:

From at least in or about 2009 through in or about July 2021, LLEWELLYN and nine other individuals participated in a massive scheme to defraud Polar.  At all relevant times, LLEWELLYN and three co-defendants were senior executives of Polar (the “Executive Defendants”), and six co-defendants (the “Vendor Defendants”) owned and operated various Polar vendors and customers.  LLEWELLYN was the Vice President of Operations, System Performance, and Quality for Polar.

The Executive Defendants agreed to accept millions of dollars in kickbacks from the Vendor Defendants and reaped substantial financial benefits as a result of their secret ownership interests in certain Polar vendors, in exchange for ensuring that those vendors received favorable business arrangements with Polar.  The fraud they perpetrated, which involved a substantial portion of Polar’s senior management and at least 10 customers and vendors of Polar, led to pervasive corruption of Polar’s business, touching nearly every aspect of the company’s operations, for over a decade. 

As a result of the scheme, the Executive Defendants, along with two co-conspirators who also worked as senior executives at Polar, received unlawful payments either directly or through various limited liability companies they controlled in excess of approximately $23 million in kickback payments or disbursements as a result of their ownership of conflicted companies. 

LLEWELLYN is the sixth defendant to plead guilty in the case thus far.

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LLEWELLYN, 55, of Highland Mills, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  LLEWELLYN also agreed to pay forfeiture in the amount of $347,879.44 and make restitution to Polar in the amount of $305,800.  LLEWELLYN is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Furman on May 7, 2024.

The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. 

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. 

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine Reilly, Danielle Kudla, Kevin Mead, and Qais Ghafary are in charge of the prosecution.


Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff
(212) 637-2600

Updated January 16, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-016