Three more Pilot Flying J employees plead guilty

More sales personnel at truckstop operator Pilot Flying J (PFJ) have pleaded guilty amid the ongoing federal investigation into the company's alleged improper use of manual rebates in fleet fuel pricing deals.

On Tuesday, regional sales manager Kevin Clark pleaded guilty to mail fraud in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., where Pilot Flying J is based. Account manager Holly Radford and salesman Jay Stinnett entered similar pleas on the same day.

The development could result in more lawsuits being filed against Pilot Flying J by aggrieved customers.

On June 7, Eagle Motor Freight of Montgomery County, Ala., filed a class action complaint against Pilot Flying J. The suit alleges that PFJ salespeople struck deals with long-haul trucking companies for discounted diesel fuel and then (with the help of co-conspirators) shortchanged their customers' discounts or rebates in order to boost Pilot Flying J profits and earn higher commissions for

The complaint notes that co-conspirators Arnold Ralenkotter (a regional sales director) and Ashley Judd (a regional account executive) had recently entered guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy each to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with the alleged discount/rebate fraud. It also extensively cites the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Robert Root that was unsealed in April.

The Eagle Motor Freight suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division, and names as defendants Pilot Corp., Pilot Travel Centers LLC; Pilot Flying J; James Haslam, John Freeman, Brian Mosher and Mark Hazelwood.

The suit requests the return of actual damages, punitive damages, RICO treble damages, disgorgement of gross revenues earned on the unilaterally reduced and withheld fuel rebates and/or discounts, injunctive relief to stop defendants from "continuing their scheme to defraud by false promises," pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.

The Eagle Motor Freight suit is the most recent of at least 10 other lawsuits (some of them class action suits) from Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois and Ohio filed since April.