According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, a FBI investigation has revealed that Pilot Flying J which is a company owned by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has been involved in fraud for years.
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s travel center company for “many years” engaged in a fraud scheme to keep money owed to customers as gas rebates, according to documents filed in federal court Thursday.
The documents further say Haslam knew about the fraud committed by top sales officials at his family business, Pilot Flying J, in which employees targeted unsophisticated trucking companies through a rebate program. Federal documents unsealed today also say he was present for discussions about the rebate fraud activities.
A 120-page affidavit to a search warrant (read the full text of the affidavit in the document viewer below) filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn., says Pilot Flying J sales employees withheld fuel price rebates and discounts in an attempt to boost the profitability of the company and increase their sales commissions.
The affidavit makes clear what Haslam knew: “(A confidential informant) further advised that the rebate fraud has occurred with the knowledge of Pilot’s current President Mark Hazelwood and Pilot’s Chief Executive Officer James A. “Jimmy” Haslam III due to the fact that the rebate fraud-related activities have been discussed during sales meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., in which Hazelwood and Haslam have been present.”
FBI and IRS agents used the affidavit to obtain a judge’s permission to search Pilot Flying J on Monday. The company is the nation’s largest chain of truck stops and travel centers.The affidavit was unsealed in federal court as Haslam visited the Browns’ training facility in Berea. He has denied wrongdoing. A company spokeswoman could not be immediately reached. On Tuesday, Haslam, meeting with reporters, said the company disagreed with the government’s allegations.
The document, written by an FBI agent who specializes in public corruption and white-collar crime, said the investigation began May 4, 2011, when a source told the FBI that Pilot employees had been targeting some companies who were “too unsophisticated to catch that their agreed-upon deal with Pilot was being changed to benefit Pilot without the knowledge of those customers.”
The affidavit alleges the scheme took place for at least five to seven years. One company, W.N. Morehouse Truckline of Omaha, Neb., lost nearly $150,000 in the scheme, the affidavit says.
It looks like there’s a good chance the Browns could be looking for a new owner pretty soon.