Sixth Suit Hits Pilot Flying J Over Fuel Rebates

Haslam to address transportation industry at event this week

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The sixth class-action lawsuit has been filed against Pilot Flying J following the federal investigation into allegations of fuel-rebate fraud, reported The Knoxville News Sentinel.

The lawsuit filed by Osborn Transportation of Gadsden, Ala., marks the sixth such case since federal agents raided Pilot's corporate headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., on April 15. Federal search warrants lay out claims of a scheme to cheat trucking customers on diesel rebates that spanned at least five years.

Pilot has denied any wrongdoing.

The new lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of damages but estimates the loss at more than $75,000, said the report. The company asks for restitution, punitive damages and interest on the money lost.

So far, five other lawsuits have been filed:

  • Atlantic Coast Carriers Inc., Hazlehurst, Ga., filed a lawsuit on April 20 against Pilot Flying J in Knox County Circuit Court in Knoxville. Attorneys charged that Haslam was trying to short circuit Atlantic Coast Carriers' class-action lawsuit and asked a Knoxville judge to order Haslam to cease contacting trucking firms that may be victims of the alleged rebate scheme. The judge has denied the charge of witness tampering and a request for a restraining order that would have prevented Pilot Flying J from contacting customers.
  • National Trucking Financial Reclamation Services, Little Rock, Ark., filed a suit on April 24 citing the evidence in an FBI affidavit that Pilot reduced promised rebates to some of it customers who received monthly rebate checks.
  • W.T.W. Enterprises, Roanoke, Ala., and its owner, Charles E. Winborn, another Pilot customer, filed a suit April 25, charging that the alleged rebate "skimming scheme" cost trucking firms in excess of $5 million; it charges breach of contract and violations of Tennessee's Consumer Protection Act.
  • Bruce Taylor, a trucker, filed a class-action suit in Jackson, Miss. According to the complaint Taylor, a trucker, was a Pilot customer since 2005 and had been promised rebates by Pilot. His suit cited the allegations in the FBI affidavit. The suit said Pilot and it agents engaged in fraud, deceptive trade practices and breach of contract.
  • Edis Trucking Inc., Franksville, Wis., filed a suit on May 1 in Chicago that accuses the company, Haslam, president Mark Hazelwood and other executive of racketeering. The company is also seeking unspecified money damages including a punitive award and other relief.

Meanwhile, Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam has agreed to address a Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary transportation seminar in Indianapolis later this week where he will answer questions put to him in advance by trucking company executives, reported The Plain Dealer.

The law firm, whose client base includes more than 5,000 transportation-related companies, contacted Haslam last week about speaking at the 2013 Scopelitis Transportation Seminar being held next Thursday and Friday in Indianapolis.

"We were invited and considered it a good opportunity to communicate with the trucking industry," Pilot Flying J spokesperson Alan Carmichael told the newspaper,

And possibly as an antidote to the scandal, Knoxville-based The Massey Group took out a full page advertisement in Sunday's News Sentinel praising the Haslams. The Massey Group, however, said the ad is not in response to the federal investigation into Pilot. "If this city ever had a family that we owe appreciation to, it's the Haslams," Randy Massey of The Massey Group said.

The ad says in part, "Thank you to the Halsam family for the many years of support for Knoxville and East Tennessee. ... Please know that you have the appreciation of the community to which you have contributed so much."

Massey said the point of the ad is simply to show the Haslam's appreciation for their help shaping our community. "If you look at the great families that have made this a great community, we have a lot of things that communities our size don't have, and a great deal of that is due to the Haslams," Massey told WBIR-TV. "And I said on Mother's Day I think I would like to put ad in that just said to the Haslam's 'Thank you very much. How can we thank you enough for what you've done to our community?'"

The ad also lists companies and individuals who support the Haslam family. That list includes Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, who told WBIR, "I hope that the investigations don't drag on and things get worked out soon so that the family can go back to doing what they do best, and that's just caring about Knoxville."

Pilot Flying J has more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Its network provides customers with access to more than 60,000 parking spaces for trucks, more than 4,400 showers and more than 4,000 diesel lanes, of which more than 2,800 offer diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) at the pump.