Trucking Cos. Accuse Haslam of Orchestrating Rebate Fraud

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The fallout from the 2013 federal raid on Pilot Flying J's local headquarters continues as two trucking companies are accusing CEO Jimmy Haslam of having a direct hand in the fraud surrounding its fuel rebate program.

According to The Associated Press, National Retail Transportation Inc. and Keystone Freight Corp. contend in court filings that Haslam directly orchestrated the fraud to cheat customers out of promised rebates and discounts. The accusations against him came in a bill of particulars filed Friday in federal court by the two companies. They were first reported by investigative reporter Walter F. Roche Jr. on his blog, the news agency reported.

Since federal agents raided Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters on April 15, 2013, 10 former employees have pleaded guilty to the scheme to defraud customers. Haslam has not been charged with any crime and has denied any knowledge of the wrongdoing.

Tom Ingram, spokesman for the Pilot Flying J CEO, said Saturday he was not familiar with the claims made in this lawsuit, but "Jimmy Haslam has said from the beginning that he was unaware of any issues and that he would get to the bottom of it and deal with any issues. And that continues to be his position," the AP reported.

In the Friday filing, National Retail Transportation and Keystone Freight accuse Haslam of instructing his employees to tell the companies they would receive rebates while never intending to honor that commitment. The bill of particulars also claims employees sent fraudulent rebate checks at Haslam's direction. The filing offers no specific evidence to support the claims, according to the AP.

This summer, Pilot Flying J reached a $92-million settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office that allows it to avoid prosecution. The company will not be prosecuted, assuming it follows the terms of the agreement, including paying a monetary penalty over the next two years and fully cooperating with the federal government's investigation of fraudulent conduct within the company's diesel fuel sales discount programs, as CSNews Online previously reported.

In addition, under a class-action settlement agreement with several trucking companies, Pilot Flying J agreed to pay $85 million to resolve subsequent lawsuits brought against the company.

Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J is a family-owned business that operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.

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