KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Two trucking companies are accusing Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam of directly orchestrating a scheme to cheat customers out of promised rebates and discounts, according to recent court filings.
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Haslam is the CEO of Pilot Flying J, the nation's largest diesel retailer, with annual revenues of around $30 billion. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also holds an undisclosed ownership share in the company but has said he is not involved in Pilot's day-to-day operations.
Since federal agents raided Pilot's Knoxville headquarters in April 2013, 10 former employees have pleaded guilty to the scheme to defraud customers. Jimmy Haslam has not been charged with any crime.
The accusations against him came in a bill of particulars filed Friday in federal court by National Retail Transportation Inc. and Keystone Freight Corp. They were first reported by investigative reporter Walter F. Roche Jr. on his blog.
Tom Ingram, a spokesman for the Pilot CEO, said Saturday that he was not familiar with the claims made in this lawsuit, but "Jimmy Haslam has said from the beginning that he was unaware of any issues and that he would get to the bottom of it and deal with any issues. And that continues to be his position."
In July, Pilot agreed to pay $92 million in fines and accept responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees while the government agreed not to prosecute the company. The agreement requires Pilot to comply with several conditions, including cooperation with the ongoing investigation of people who may have been involved in the fraud. It does not protect any individual at Pilot from prosecution.
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Civil suits against Pilot were mostly resolved by a class-action settlement in which Pilot agreed to pay out nearly $85 million to 5,500 customers last November. But several individual trucking companies, including National Retail Transportation and Keystone Freight, opted out of the settlement in order to pursue their own civil lawsuits.
Those lawsuits were consolidated early this year in U.S. District Court for Kentucky's eastern district.
In the Friday filing, National Retail Transportation and Keystone Freight accuse Haslam of instructing his employees to tell the companies they would receive rebates while never intending to honor that commitment. The bill of particulars also claims that Pilot employees sent fraudulent rebate checks at Haslam's direction. The filing offers no specific evidence to support those claims.