Five companies, 19 drivers charged in logbook investigation

| Thursday, December 09, 2004

A California grand jury issued indictments to five trucking companies and 23 individuals as a result of a lengthy investigation into falsifying and aiding in the falsification of driver logbooks.

The 18-month investigation was conducted by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, the FMCSA and a number of state agencies.

The multiple-count charges are: conspiracy to make false statements to a government agency; aiding and abetting false statements to a government agency; conspiracy to make false entries in records of federal investigations and proceedings; and aiding and abetting false entries in records of federal investigations and proceedings. The charges against the individuals and the companies vary, according to a press release from the DOT’s Office of Inspector General.

A California Grand Jury returned a 76-count indictment against Nijjar Brothers Trucking Inc., a Madera, CA-based company, and 13 employees, including its president, vice president, safety director, a dispatcher and nine truckers.

The grand jury returned a 74-count indictment against NB Trucking Inc., also based in Madera, CA. The indictment charges that both Nijjar Brothers Trucking and NB Trucking conducted their trucking and related business operations interchangeably under the corporate umbrella of Nijjar Brothers Trucking. The indictment also alleges that both companies used the same truck drivers, employees and equipment.

One of the Nijjar drivers charged individually was Baljinder Singh. According to the Office of Inspector General press release, Singh was caused a wreck on Interstate 10 in Arizona on Sept. 30, 2003, while driving in violation of federal rest regulations. Two people died and seven others were seriously injured in the multi-vehicle wreck.

The president of Nijjar, Surrinder Singh Nijjar, was charged individually with witness tampering.

Semper Truck Lines Inc., based in Fresno, CA, received a five-count indictment against the company and three of its drivers.

Maximum penalties faced by the defendants range from three years supervised release, five-year probation term to 20 years in prison and fines ranging from $250,000 to $500,000.

Two other companies indicted as a result of the 18-month investigation negotiated plea agreements.

Ore-Cal Livestock Inc., an Oregon-based company, negotiated an agreement where it pleaded guilty to five counts of aiding and abetting false statements to a government agency. The company was sentenced to five years probation and fined it $25,000 plus court costs.

As a special condition to the plea agreement Ore-Cal was ordered to pay the Office of Inspector General $50,000 as a settlement for the costs of investigating the case. The company was also ordered to pay a total of $1 million over the next five years toward trucking safety. The company was also ordered to implement a strict safety and regulatory compliance program.

Beef Packers Inc., a Fresno, CA, meat processing company, entered into an agreement where it pleaded guilty to one county of aiding and abetting the making and delivering a false official writing. The company was sentenced to five years probation and fined $5,000 plus court costs. The company was also ordered to implement a strict safety and regulatory compliance program.

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