Another Owner-Operator Suit Filed Against Pilot Flying J
June 04, 2013
Another lawsuit has been filed against truckstop chain Pilot Flying J in the wake of two guilty pleas in an apparent scheme to cheat customers out of fuel rebates, this one coming from an owner-operator trucker.
Attorneys for Nebraska-based trucker Paul Otto have filed a federal class action in Nashville charging that Pilot Flying J fraudulently withheld tens of millions of dollars in diesel fuel price rebates and discounts from customers over the past eight years. This is believed to be the second lawsuit coming from a truck driver.
The suit alleges that in order to increase the company's profits and the sales commission of Pilot Flying J employees, company employees intentionally defrauded customers by withholding diesel fuel price rebates and discounts, which resulted in customers paying higher diesel fuel prices. Pilot Flying J salespersons allegedly took advantage of customers whom they deemed unsophisticated and unlikely to catch fuel rebate and discount errors.
The complaint further alleges that Pilot Flying J secretly conducted the diesel fuel rebate scheme for years. Managers and executives at the highest level of the company were aware of the diesel fuel rebate scheme, the complaint charges.
Otto is described by the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper as being leased to W.N. Morehouse Truckline, based in Omaha. The carrier was one of those named in an FBI affidavit as having been cheated, allegedly by around $140,000.
The suit is nearly identical to many of the around one-dozen that have been filed since FBI and IRS raided the Knoxville-headquarters of Pilot Flying J in mid-April as part of its investigation into these allegations. CEO Jimmy Haslam has denied any wrongdoing. Two employees last week pleaded guilty to charges over their involvement, but have yet to be sentenced.
The Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper reports prosecutors are looking one of those who pleaded guilty, account representative Ashley Judd, as a “star witness” in its pursuit of company higher-ups.
Judd reportedly worked for the company since 2009 after serving as an intern while in high school and college. She is said to have provided written information to investigators about the alleged scheme and helped show agents around company headquarters when it was raided as part of their evidentiary search.