The number of people who have pled guilty to charges is up to five as part of a federal investigation that the truckstop chain Pilot Flying J bilked trucking customers out of money due to them in the form of rebates from fuel purchases, according to published reports.
On Tuesday, the day began with Kevin Clark, a regional sales manager for the company, admitting to one count of mail fraud that included approving checks to customers that shortchanged them for rebates. Court documents show he did not work at company headquarters in Knoxville, but rather in Missouri.
He admitted he ordered another employee, Ashley Judd Smith, a regional account representative, to falsify rebate reports. Smith pled guilty to charges last month, along with Arnold Ralenkotter, a regional sales manager.
Clark faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Later in the day, James Stinnett, also a regional sales manager, admitted to reducing rebate amounts customers were “unlikely to catch” and telling account representatives to reduce rebate amounts to customers. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $150,000 fine. Stinnett reportedly has been a Pilot Flying J employee since 1995
Finally, Holly Radford, who worked as a regional account representative at Pilot headquarters in Knoxville, admitted to one count of mail fraud. Radford admitted she was responsible for deceiving ten to fifty customers out of between $200,000 and $400,000.
No dates have been set for the sentencing of any of the five that have pled guilty. All reportedly have made the pleas as part of an agreement to cooperate with investigators.
These developments follow a federal raid on the headquarter of Pilot Flying J in mid-April in which agents from the FBI and IRS served a series of search warrants, as well as on the homes of some company executives.
Soon afterwards the FBI released a move than 100-page affidavit used to secure the search warrant claiming a scheme to defraud Pilot Flying J customers reached all the way to top management as part of a plan to boost company profits.
Both the company and CEO Jimmy Haslam have denied accusations of wrongdoing, but that hasn’t stopped more than a dozen lawsuits, mainly class actions, being filed against the company, and in some cases against officials there as well.
In a statement on the Pilot Flying J website, Haslam said, "We are disappointed in the actions of these employees towards our customers. We assure our customers that our five-step plan to correct any wrongdoing and to make certain these actions do not happen again is ongoing, and that our customers’ confidence in the vast majority of our 23,000 team members nationwide remains well-placed.”
Pilot Flying J is the largest truckstop operator in North America, with about 650 locations.