A former truck stop company executive boasted in a secretly recorded conversation that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was aware of a scheme to defraud customers and "loved it" when the sales team ripped off clients.
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The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the jury in the federal fraud trial of former Pilot Flying J executives and sales representatives heard a recording of former vice president John "Stick" Freeman saying Haslam was aware of the scheme to deprive trucking customers of the diesel discounts they had negotiated.
In Freeman's words: "He knew — absolutely."
Pilot, which is controlled by the Haslam family, issued a statement reiterating that Haslam had no knowledge of the scheme.
“As we have said from the outset, Jimmy Haslam was not aware of any wrongdoing,” the statement said.
Haslam has owned the Browns since 2012, when he purchased the franchise for more than $1 billion. The Browns are currently worth an estimated $1.95 billion, which ranks 29th among the NFL’s 32 teams, according to Forbes.
Haslam hasn't been charged in the investigation that has resulted in 14 guilty pleas among former Pilot employees. Four others are on trial in Chattanooga.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.