Pilot, Haslam Sued by Trucking Firm for Fuel Rebate Fraud

Pilot Corp. and Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam were sued by a Wisconsin trucking firm over federal allegations that its Pilot Flying J truck-stop business cheated customers on fuel rebates.

The complaint, filed at the U.S. courthouse in Chicago yesterday by Edis Trucking Inc. of Franksville, Wisconsin, follows allegations lodged against Pilot and company executives last month by an FBI agent seeking court permission to search Pilot offices in Knoxville, Tennessee.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Robert Root alleged “a scheme to defraud executed by various Pilot employees to deceptively withhold diesel fuel rebates and discounts from Pilot customers.”

Root’s 120-page affidavit, unsealed by U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton in Knoxville on April 18, was cited in Edis’s complaint, which accuses the company, Haslam, President Mark Hazelwood and other executive of racketeering.

“They engaged in repetitious and systematic mail fraud, interstate wire fraud and/or foreign wire fraud,” Edis alleged in its complaint seeking class status on behalf of all people and entities that were party to fuel rebate and discount contracts with the defendants from January 2005 to the present.

No federal charges have been filed in connection with the allegations contained in Root’s affidavits. Rachel Albright, of the Ingram Group in Nashville, a spokeswoman for Pilot, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on the Edis complaint, e-mailed to her after regular business hours yesterday.

Punitive Award

The Wisconsin company is also seeking unspecified money damages including a punitive award and other relief. Pilot has also been sued by customers in federal courts in Birmingham, Alabama, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jackson, Mississippi.

Haslam, who owns the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns franchise, said in an April 18 statement that his company was cooperating in the federal probe.

“I maintain that the foundation of this company is built on its integrity and that any willful wrongdoing by any employee of this company at any time is intolerable,” he said.

Search warrants were issued in U.S. v. Pilot Flying J Inc., 13-mj-02028, 13-mj-02029, 13-mj-02030 and 13-mj-02033, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee (Knoxville).

The case is Edis Trucking Inc. v. Pilot Corp., 13-cv-03294, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).