Turkish Businessman Arrested in Austria on Charges that He Allegedly Laundered Over $133 Million in Fraud Proceeds

A Turkish businessman was arrested in Austria on June 19, at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. This arrest followed a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 28, which was unsealed today. The superseding indictment charged Sezgin Baran Korkmaz with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, 10 counts of wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. 

According to the superseding indictment, Korkmaz laundered over $133 million in fraud proceeds through bank accounts that he controlled in Turkey and Luxembourg. The proceeds allegedly related to a scheme by Jacob Kingston, Isaiah Kingston, and Levon Termendzhyan to defraud the U.S. Treasury by filing false claims for over $1 billion in refundable renewable fuel tax credits for the production and sale of biodiesel by their company, Washakie Renewable Energy LLC, in Plymouth, Utah.

Korkmaz and his co-conspirators allegedly used proceeds from the fraud to acquire the Turkish airline Borajet, hotels in Turkey and Switzerland, a yacht named the Queen Anne, and a villa and apartment on the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul.

The indictment further charges Korkmaz with 10 counts of wire fraud. As alleged, Korkmaz devised a scheme to defraud Jacob Kingston and Isaiah Kingston by falsely representing that he could provide them with protection, through unnamed government officials, from a federal grand jury investigation and civil lawsuits.

The United States will seek to extradite Korkmaz to the United States so that he can appear before U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish of the District of Utah to face these charges. If convicted, Korkmaz faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each of the wire fraud counts, and five years in prison for the obstruction count. Judge Parrish will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Andrea T. Martinez for the District of Utah made the announcement.

IRS Criminal Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division, and the Department of Defense DCIS are investigating the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs is providing significant assistance.

Trial Attorneys Richard Rolwing and Arthur Ewenczyk, and Senior Litigation Counsel John Sullivan of the Justice Department’s Tax Division are prosecuting the case.  

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Author: June 21, 2021

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