COLUMBUS, Ohio — FST Express, a Columbus-based trucking company, has filed suit against Pilot Flying J arising out of the FBI's investigation into a fraudulent rebate scheme.
FST officials said it is one of several trucking companies that has chosen to "opt out" of a class action settlement that has received preliminary approval by a federal judge in Arkansas.
Pilot Flying J customers have until Tuesday to "opt out" of the proposed settlement. If they do not opt out by that date, they will automatically be included in the class action settlement.
There may be more individual suits to come, Shawn J. Organ, FST’s attorney, said.
“Many trucking companies that have serious doubts about the settlement have contacted us to help them opt out of the settlement and pursue their individual claims against Pilot, and we plan to vigorously pursue their claims,” Organ said.
FST Express, which claims it lost more than $75,000 in the rebate scheme, has opted out of the proposed settlement because there are serious questions about whether the settlement provides a sufficient benefit to Pilot Flying J's customers who have been harmed by the rebate scheme, Organ said.
"Unfortunately, under the settlement agreement trucking companies will not learn whether they have received a fair settlement until after the opt-out deadline,” he said. “But by then it will be too late for those companies to get out of the settlement and pursue their own lawsuits."
According to Organ, Pilot Flying J pushed for a settlement before all the facts are known. "The FBI investigation is still ongoing," Organ said. "Federal investigators are still uncovering details about how widespread the fraud was. Although Pilot certainly benefits from a quick settlement, we have serious concerns whether such a hasty deal is good for the victims of Pilot’s fraud."
The FBI and the IRS raided Pilot's headquarters on April 15, 2013, after receiving a tip that Pilot was engaging in massive fraud against its customers.
All indications are that the investigation will continue for some time. Several Pilot employees have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing in federal court. Eventually, evidence from the seized documents and hard-drives will be revealed.
A spokesman for Pilot Flying J said he did not know of the lawsuit but added that the company's lawyers would review the suit "and defend it appropriately.''
More than two dozen companies have sued Pilot Flying J.
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