A Channel 4 News investigation has found that the owner of a Lebanon company shut down for trucking violations is actively involved in a company that opened a few weeks later.
That new company, Terri's Farms, is driving the same equipment and hauling the same cargo - horses bound for slaughter in Mexico.
Three Angels Farms was shut down by the federal government on June 29 after two interstate mishaps involving trailers loaded with horses.
In January a driver, who said he'd fallen asleep, rolled a trailer full of horses in Williamson County. Six months later, another trucker from the same company was driving on Interstate 440 when his horse trailer collapsed in the middle.
The federal government closed Three Angels Farms, deeming the company an imminent threat to public safety.
Documents obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show Three Angels owner, Dorian Ayache, was in the driver's seat of a livestock truck that was stopped for violations in Knoxville three weeks after Three Angels was closed. In that stop, Ayache was cited for equipment violations and given a warning for log book violations.
He was driving a truck under the company name Terri's Farms, a business in Murfreesboro, but Ayache was driving the same tractor and trailer that had been registered to Three Angels Farms.
Terri's Farms has only been in business since mid-July, yet its drivers have already been cited in four stops with a total of 22 violations. The violations include allegations of false log books, driving too many hours and operating defective equipment.
Paperwork from one of the stops further links Ayache to the new company. In one Arkansas stop, Ayache is listed as the shipper.
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Safety declined to comment specifically on its investigation into Ayache, but they spoke in general terms about "chameleon carriers" - the name for companies that are shut down for bad acts and then reopen under a new name.
Trooper Allen England said that state and federal officials work together to identify "chameleon carriers" and shut them down. Investigators track vehicle VIN numbers, owner and employee names and equipment, as they try to determine if an owner is merely trying to disguise his bad history by closing and reopening under a new name.
England said there are valid cases where a new owner buys out an old company, upgrades the equipment and implements a good safety program. In that case, the company is not a chameleon.
But public safety is jeopardized, he said, when an owner shuts down one bad company then starts another bad company.
Channel 4 News attempted to contact Ayache, but he has not returned our messages.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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