By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The potential witness list in an Ohio suit against Pilot Flying J includes Cleveland Browns owner James A. Haslam 3rd and two federal agents involved in a lengthy criminal probe of the nationwide truck stop firm.
The potential witness list filed late last week in Franklin County Court by attorneys for three trucking firms lists over 90 persons ranging from former Pilot executives who have already entered guilty pleas to unnamed confidential sources cited by federal agents in a filing in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn.
The filings comes in a civil suit filed by HB Logistics, FST Express and Dick Lavy trucking charging that Pilot cheated them out of millions of dollars in promised rebates and diesel fuel price reductions.
Pilot's lawyers along with co-defendants in the case also have filed potential witness lists including current Pilot employees and outside experts.
The Ohio suit is one of two civil claims currently pending against Pilot. A second is pending in Mobile, Ala., where Wright Transportation has asked a judge to order Haslam, who heads Pilot, to undergo questioning.
Both actions stem from allegations that Pilot sales executives routinely and systematically cheated truckers out of promised rebates. Those allegations were spelled out in a lengthy affidavit filed in federal court in Knoxville over three years ago.
The affidavit was signed by FBI Agent Robert Root. Root and IRS agent Kevin McCord are both on the trucking firms' potential witness list.
The witness list filing states that it includes "all witnesses who plaintiffs may call as witnesses at trial or hearing in this case."
In addition to former Pilot staffers who have already entered guilty pleas like Arnold Ralenkotter, the list includes several other former employees who were recently indicted. They include former Pilot President Mark Hazelwood, who has entered innocent pleas to wire fraud and witness tampering charges.
Also included is former Pilot Vice President John Freeman who, like Hazelwood, was recently indicted and has entered an innocent plea to mail and wire fraud charges.
Still others listed include CHS1 and CHS2, confidential government informants cited in the Root affidavit.
The rebate fraud charges already have proven costly for Pilot with the combined cost of settling suits by other truckers and the federal government totaling over $175 million.
Attorneys for the trucking companies stated in the filing that they were reserving the right to supplement the witness list at a later date.