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Lawsuits Against Pilot Flying J Continue Piling

Jul 12, 2013

An Alabama trucking company is the most recent outfit to file a lawsuit against Pilot Flying J for alleged fraudulent activity – specifically, cheating customers out of gas rebates.

Allegedly, Pilot Flying J has been defrauding trucking companies with which it had discount rebate agreements in place. The company allegedly violated these agreements by deceptively withholding diesel fuel price rebates and discounts from customers.

As we’ve been reporting, Jimmy Haslam, the CEO of the company (and owner of the Cleveland Browns), allegedly knew of the fraud, though he denies this. Some reports say the claimed fraudulence has cost some companies as much as $1 million. The federal government, which has been investigating the company, charges that Pilot Flying J – the largest truck-stop chain in the U.S. – has been involved in fraud for many years.

Wright Transportation, Inc., based in Mobile County, Alabama, filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. The company seeks class action status with the 20 other trucking companies that have already filed similar lawsuits alleging they were cheated out of rebates by owner Haslam and Pilot Flying J Travel Centers.

As noted in a report, in mid-April, FBI and IRS agents together served a series of search warrants at Pilot Flying J’s Knoxville headquarters, as well as at the homes of some company executives. This was part of an investigation into the company regarding fraudulent activity related to the alleged theft of gas rebates that should’ve been paid to its customers.

Haslam has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of anything about the alleged scheme, which supposedly was mustered up in order to boost company profits. But since the raid, five Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty; some have promised to help investigators.

Illinois-based Akra Logistics has included in its lawsuit Pilot Flying J’s minority partner, CVC Capital Partners, as well as an equity owner of the truck-stop chain: FJ Management, reported

The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reports the Akra Logistics, in addition to filing a lawsuit and seeking class action status, has included racketeering charges, which would allow for the tripling of any damage awards against Pilot Flying J.

On April 18, 2013, documents filed in federal court alleged that Pilot Flying J has engaged in fraud for many years in order to keep millions of dollars owed to customers in the form of gas rebates. The affidavit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee, alleges that sales employees at the company withheld fuel price rebates and discounts from companies to increase revenue and boost their own commissions.

For instance, the document said, if a customer was owed $10,000 for a rebate, Pilot Flying J would pay them $7,500. According to the affidavit, “the rebate fraud has occurred with the knowledge of Pilot’s current President Mark Hazelwood and Pilot’s Chief Executive Officer James A. “Jimmy” Haslam III, due to the fact that the rebate fraud-related activities have been discussed during sales meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., in which Hazelwood and Haslam have been present.”

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