Pilot Flying J Closes Book on Federal Fraud Civil Suits
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J is no longer fighting civil suits in federal court, but the company still faces a possible civil suit at the state level in Alabama and an ongoing criminal investigation.
According to WBIR 10News, U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar in Alabama agreed to dismiss the final federal civil lawsuit against Pilot Flying J in late October. The suit was filed by Mobile, Ala.-based Wright Transportation, which requested the dismissal. Instead, the trucking company is expected to sue Pilot Flying J in state court.
In April 2014, seven pending civil suits were merged to establish a multi-district litigation. Judge Thapar then heard the cases in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Since then, Pilot Flying J has either settled the other cases or they've been dismissed.
"Because Wright Transportation Inc.'s case is the only remaining action … there are no longer benefits from centralized or coordinated proceedings in the Eastern District of Kentucky," the judge wrote in a Sept. 3 order. "Only case-specific issues remain, and they are best left for the Southern District of Alabama to decide."
Wright Transportation asked for a dismissal and requested sanctions against Pilot Flying J. However, the federal court sided with Pilot Flying J and declined to sanction the company.
"The Alabama case is one of only several unsettled issues," a Pilot Flying J spokesman told WBIR 10News. "The company will continue to work to resolve this issue appropriately."
The legal actions stemmed from the April 15, 2013 raid of Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters in connection with allegations of fraud in its fuel rebate program. Those allegations led to several lawsuits, as well as a criminal investigation into several company executives.
In November 2013, U.S. District Judge James Moody granted final approval of a class-action settlement between Pilot Flying J and the trucking companies suing the retailer over discrepancies in its fuel rebate program.
In July 2014, the truck stop operator also reached an understanding with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Tennessee, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the terms of the pact, the company will not be prosecuted, assuming it follows the terms of the agreement, including paying a monetary penalty and fully cooperating with the federal government's investigation of fraudulent conduct within the company's diesel fuel sales discount programs.
Separate from the civil actions, 10 Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Knoxville to various charges related to mail fraud and wire fraud. In addition, at least three top-ranking former and current employees have received federal target letters, which are often the last step before an indictment. These criminal cases remain in the court.