Plea deal possible in oil trader case?

A Department of Justice filing hints at the possibility of a plea deal for a pair of oil traders involved in an alleged scheme that cost LyondellBassell millions of dollars in excess shipping fees.

Clyde Meltzer and Bernard Langley were scheduled to go to trial in November for allegedly working with Jonathan Barnes, a former LyondellBassell employee, to overcharge the company for oil shipments and then kicking back some of the funds to Barnes.

Barnes pled guilty to his role in the alleged dealings (and a few other things) and was set to be sentenced on September 8.

But in a filing made late last week asking to move the sentencing date, prosecutors indicated the possibility of a plea deal for the Meltzer and Langley.

“The United States files this unopposed motion to continue Barnes’s sentencing hearing so that the sentencing will take place after the trial or pleas of codefendants Meltzer and Langley,” the filing says. “Such a reset would be consistent with the Court’s prior scheduling decisions in this case.”

The idea of Meltzer doing a plea deal doesn’t exactly fit his past profile, however.

In 1983 a federal grand jury in New York indicted Meltzer for allegedly helping commodities trading giant Marc Rich evade millions of dollars in U.S. income taxes. Rich and his partner, Pincus Green, fled the country in the face of charges, but Meltzer stayed put.

Friends of Meltzer, who asked they not be identified, said Rich offered to fly him and his family out of the country at the time, but he declined. They said prosecutors also pressured him to testify against Rich in exchange for leniency, but he refused.

In 1984 Meltzer pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Internal Revenue Service and was sentenced to probation and community service. Rich and Green later were pardoned by then-President Bill Clinton after intense lobbying from friends of Rich, including his ex-wife who was a major fundraiser for Clinton.

The case has a number of interesting twists that could implicate other companies and individuals, however, so the idea that the defendants may have information to offer the government in exchange for a deal isn’t far fetched.