KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The FBI probe into Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's Pilot Flying J is heading to a Knoxville courtroom Monday where a temporary restraining order is being sought on behalf of truckers who claim they were cheated.
The motion is being filed on behalf of the Georgia-based Atlantic Coast Carriers, Inc. that alleges Haslam and Pilot Flying J are attempting to settle claims of a "deceptive scheme" to cheat truckers of promised rebates before the FBI's case is fully investigated.
A class action lawsuit has already been filed on behalf of Atlantic Coast Carriers and two additional lawsuits have also been filed in federal courts in Arkansas and Alabama.
"It is evident," according to the motion,"that defendants are contacting potential class members, obtaining releases and settling claims before the potential class members even know the full extent of their claims."
Haslam held repeated news conferences in the days following the FBI raid in an effort to reach out to customers and promise he would investigate the allegations and remedy any issues revolving around the rebate program.
But the attorney representing trucking companies who claim they were cheated insists that is "an improper attempt to coerce parties" and appears to be tampering with potential witnesses in the FBI probe.
"I think that by signing off early--without the opportunity we provide them for a complete investigation of the damages--in al liklihood sells them short, says Georgia attorney Mark Tate.
Tate also believes the case casts a dark shadow on Haslam and his ownership of the Cleveland Browns.
"This is beyond MIchael Vick," argues Tate.
"This man owns the team and he's earned the trust of the NFL. In order to have that position, and from their standpoint, this has sullied the reputation of the owners--all of the owners.
Even so, an attorney representing Haslam insists his client has done nothing wrong and the NFL supports Haslam.
"I understand the NFL released a statement and fundamentally said it is well aware of this and have no significant concerns at this point in time," said defense attorney Aubrey Harwell.
In addition, Harwell says his client is simply trying to do the right thing by reaching out to trucking companies who believe they may have been cheated.
"I have seen few men who dealt with it in a more responsible, decent and transparent way than Jimmy Haslam has," referring to the FBI probe.
Monday's hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in Knox County Circuit Court in Knoxville.
NewsChannel5 will have up-to-the-minute coverage along with newsnet5.com.