With a motive to increase commissions and profits while at the same time harming competitors, two Pilot employees have admitted in federal court to their participation in a fraudulent fuel rebate scheme. The fraud and conspiracy charges result from an investigation into certain Pilot customers receiving less than owed rebate check amounts.
Arnold “Arnie” Ralenkotter, who was the Northeast regional sales director for Pilot Flying J, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Another employee, Ashley Judd, an account representative for the company, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
The plea agreements, entered in the U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn., may indicate that the two employees are cooperating with the federal authorities in their investigation. The FBI raided the Knoxville, Tenn.-based headquarters of Pilot Flying J on April 15 and took possession of records, both paper and electronic.
The federal affidavit that revealed accusations of Pilot sales people purposefully keeping rebate money owed to truck carriers was unsealed on April 18.
Responding to the recent plea disclosures, Pilot Flying J spokesman Tom Ingram said in a released statement, “The statements released by the federal court today do not come as a surprise given what we’ve been learning in our own internal investigations, but are nonetheless disappointing. We want to assure our customers that we are taking every step to correct any wrongdoing that has occurred and to make certain that it does not happen again.”
In addition, in a waiver of indictment filed and signed by Ralenkotter, he (Ralenkotter) states that he conspired to send unfairly reduced fuel rebate checks to certain Pilot Flying J customers “so that Pilot could fraudulently retain rebates that were owed to those customers and so that Pilot could create and maintain the false pretense that those customers were in fact receiving their agreed upon diesel price discount with Pilot.”
Documents allege that he participated in the scheme with other Pilot employees from 2008 until April 2013. According to the waiver, an accountant assigned to Ralenkotter would e-mail him a spreadsheet each month that outlined the actual rebate amounts due to carriers per their discount agreement along with the recommended reduced fraudulent amounts.
Like Ralenkotter, Judd is also accused of conspiring with other Pilot Flying J employees and sending out reduced checks to unsuspecting carriers. She is also accused of subsequently lying to those carriers who questioned the amounts.
Both Ralenkotter and Judd are currently out on bail.
, Pilot Flying J