By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A motion to quash a subpoena
on a key former official of Pilot Flying J has been denied even as the
travel center firm is facing yet another law suit two years after a
highly publicized federal raid on its headquarters.
Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton has rejected a motion to quash a subpoena
for the deposition of Lori McFarland, who once played a key role in the
diesel fuel rebate program that is the subject of an ongoing federal
McFarland had asked the court to quash the subpoena
contending that her testimony would jeopardize her constitutional
rights against self incrimination.
In a two-page order Guyton said
McFarland could not make "a blanket assertion of her fifth amendment
privilege before questioning in order to avoid questioning altogether."
was mentioned prominently in a 120-page affidavit filed by an FBI agent
in federal court in Knoxville. According to transcripts of secretly
recorded Pilot sales meetings, McFarland oversaw the rebate program and
could manipulate the rebates to boost both company profits and sales
She was subpoenaed in two of about a half dozen
remaining civil suits against Pilot stemming from allegations that top
company officials systematically reduced promised rebates to trucking
firms who they thought would never notice.
Meanwhile in federal
court in Ohio, a suit has been filed by the Dick Lavy Trucking Company
of Bradford charging that it had been cheated on promised rebates for a
decade by Pilot.
The 24-page complaint accuses Pilot of engaging
in "massive fraudulent conduct." Two of the Pilot employees named in the
suit, Janet Welch and Arnold Ralenkotter, already have entered guilty
pleas to mail and wire fraud charges.
The suit charges the
truck-stop firm with breach of contract, civil theft and violations of
consumer protection statutes in Tennessee and Ohio.
the complaint when a trucking company official at one point challenged
the accuracy of rebates, Pilot officials blamed it on "problems with the
billing system." The statement was false and Pilot knew it was false,
the suit charges.
The suit repeatedly cites the 120-page FBI
affidavit filed to justify the search warrants and the April 15, 2013
raid on Pilot's offices.
Pilot attorney Aubrey Harwell said Monday he had just learned of the suit and had not had a chance to read the complaint.
Pilot settled dozens of lawsuits in a class action case in Arkansas, but a handful of firms opted out of that $84 million deal.
remaining suits have now been consolidated before a federal judge in
Kentucky. The Lavy suit may also be merged into those cases.
Pilot also reached a $92 million settlement with the federal government over fuel rebate charges.