New name, same game
Predatory schemes are nothing new to the trucking industry. In fact, most seasoned truck drivers have a story to tell about a bad experience with a carrier or broker that left them broke, but are determined to never let it happen to them again.

By Clarissa Hawes, staff writer

When OOIDA Member Dwight Weir of Virginia Beach, Va., and Kat Kadlec signed on with FEX in early 2013, the team drivers felt good about the family-owned company, encouraged by the family’s sales pitch.

FEX Transport was headquartered out of Virginia Beach. The business was run by Mike Fotakis, his son, Ioannis (John) Fotakis, and sister Ekaterina Fotakis.

“They told us their dad had been a trucker for many years and based on his experience in trucking, he wanted to set up a trucking company for the drivers,” said Kadlec. “The family knew just what to say, and sadly we believed them.”

That good feeling lasted a couple of months. Weir told Land Line that he started recognizing problems right after signing the contract, but the company assured him that all was well.

It started with the money. Weir and Kadlec negotiated with FEX that they would get 90 percent of the line haul and FEX would get 10 percent. However, a broker showed the couple what the load really paid and that FEX was getting as much as 14 percent.

Fridays were supposed to be pay days. When Weir and Kadlec called to find out about their settlements, they were told that pay day would be “next Friday,” then the same answer the following week.

Then it became hard to reach the company. Finally, Kadlec said the executives at FEX stopped answering their calls altogether. They say they are still owed around $9,000.

But it doesn’t end there. In February 2013, Weir reported to OOIDA that the company underwent a safety audit conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s field office in Virginia. Weir said he was surprised when he was told by FEX that the audit resulted in Weir being “fined” $1,900 for 30 days of missing logs. According to Weir, he’d taken several weeks off around Christmas time and was not driving during that time.

After the $1,900 was deducted from Weir’s pay, Weir and Kadlec requested a copy of the FMCSA safety audit through a Freedom of Information Act request. That’s when they realized the document they were provided by the executives at FEX did not match the official record provided by FMCSA.

In the fake document, it cites Dwight Weir by name, and assigned him a fine of $1,900. According to the fake document, the company was also fined $2,600. With the help of OOIDA, Weir found out no money was owed and no drivers were named in the audit reports.

The fake audit document was not the only false info the company was putting out.

The FEX-provided “audit” document lists its gross revenue as being more than $3.6 million and that the company owned nine trucks and term-leased 21 trucks. However, the official documents provided by FMCSA show the company’s gross revenue as being less than $1 million, around $662,500, and that the company owned one truck and term-leased nine trucks.

The FEX-provided document showed the company owned 30 trailers and leased zero trailers, while the official report stated the company owned eight trailers and leased zero trailers.

The bogus audit Weir and Kadlec were provided by FEX showed the company as receiving a satisfactory rating, while the official FMCSA document states “this review is not rated.”

The FMCSA official audit also has a bar code at the bottom of each page with a series of letters and numbers. While the FEX-provided report has the same series of numbers at the bottom of the pages, it is missing the official bar code.

“We realize we may never recover our money, about $9,000, we are owed, but our fight now is on principle,” Kadlec said. “Our hope now is that another driver won’t have to go through what we went through, which was both emotional and financially devastating.”

While executives at FEX Transport were winding down this particular business, which had had its operating authority involuntarily revoked four times from 2005 to 2013, the family was at work setting up a new trucking company, Spartan Express Inc., located at the same address as the previous company. This company was registered in the name of Ekaterina Fotakis.

FEX becomes Spartan Express
When OOIDA Member Angela Marino and Justin Pistone of Fort Mohave, Ariz., entered FEX’s orientation program, they thought they were going to work for FEX. Instead, early on in their orientation, they were told the company was changing its name to Spartan Express, which was located in the same building at the same address. However, instead of Mike Fotakis being listed as the registered agent of the company, his daughter Ekaterina Fotakis was listed as the registered agent for Spartan Express.

After working for the company for five weeks, they did not receive one settlement check. About 45 days after they quit, they did receive a check for $1,700 – far less than the nearly $9,000 they were owed.

In an April 2013 letter to Pistone, John Fotakis, vice president of FEX Transport, as well as Spartan, stated that he would pay him the remainder of his money within 45 days after termination of the agreement. Pistone said that never happened. 

Angela Marino said on the day they decided to turn in their trailer and quit the company, she called Ekaterina Fotakis on her cellphone to let her know what the couple was doing and to see if she could meet them at the office so Spartan could pay them what they were owed.

Instead, Marino said Ekaterina Fotakis told her she was too busy to meet them because she “was in the middle of a DOT audit.”

“Little did she know we were outside the office, which was closed and no one was there,” Marino said. LL

Editor’s note: Staff Writer Clarissa Hawes asked members of the Fotakis family for a comment regarding this story and the claims of the drivers. She received an email from Ekaterina Fotakis Herbin who said Spartan had never lost a driver and she had “no idea who FEX was.”