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Two trucking firms feud over equipment

It's described as something like a trucking version of a palace coup.

Officials at a St. Petersburg trucking company accuse a woman they say was their employee of secretly incorporating a rival business while she still worked for them. They say she then took to an undisclosed location four of the firm's trailers used to haul freight before grabbing the keys for the company's remaining six trucks and trailers.

In a lawsuit filed late last month in Pinellas circuit court, Coast to Coast Freight and Trucking said its employee, Kimberly L. Johnson, 49, of Seminole demanded a ransom of $28,000 to return the property.

Johnson told St. Petersburg police, who conducted a brief investigation, that she invested more than $27,000 in her firm.

The woman acknowledged to police that she would return the keys and equipment — the 10 used trucks and trailers are valued at $161,000 — once Coast to Coast paid what she was owed, which she said was $28,000.

Police said in a report that they found it curious that Coast to Coast's purported owner, Javon Scott, did not appear much interested in the dispute, telling them he "did not want to be in the middle of the matter."

A former dispatcher for Coast to Coast said Johnson actually owned the business. The man later worked at Johnson's new business, Premiere Trucking.

Events get more confusing still. Police spoke to another man who disputes the dispatcher.

Andre Scruggs told police he provided the money to launch Coast to Coast in 2013 and owned its equipment. But Scruggs, who declined comment for this report, could not immediately provide police with paperwork proving his ownership, a report said.

Johnson, police said, told them Scott was just a straw man owner and "that the business was in his name because he had a clean record and worked at Walmart."

A police report did not make clear how employment at Walmart qualified him as the owner of a trucking company.

Perhaps it is no surprise police ultimately threw their hands up and told everyone involved this was a civil matter and no criminal charges would be filed against anyone.

Call a lawyer, police told them.

The resulting lawsuit against Johnson does not clarify who owns what. The plaintiff is simply Coast to Coast. Lawyers for the firm and Scott did not return a message seeking comment.

Johnson also declined comment, saying the lawsuit "is just misinformation."

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

Two trucking firms feud over equipment 01/21/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 6:52pm]
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