The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

July 14, 2014

Haslam’s Pilot Flying J won’t be prosecuted under agreement; individuals not protected

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Authorities say the truck-stop company owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has agreed to pay $92 million in fines for cheating customers out of promised rebates and discounts.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Pilot Flying J has accepted responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees, 10 of whom have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme.

The agreement was signed by attorneys for the nation’s largest diesel retailer Friday. The agreement does not protect any individual at Pilot from prosecution and requires the company to cooperate with an ongoing investigation of current and former employees.

“We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us,” Jimmy Haslam said in a news release.

“We’ve been committed from the beginning of this to doing the right thing, and that remains our commitment.”

The Browns owner has said he was unaware of the scheme. Bill Haslam, his brother, is not involved in Pilot’s day-to-day operations.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would not comment on Pilot Flying J’s agreement with the government.

The Knoxville-based company bills itself as the largest operator of travel centers in North America, employing more than 23,000 people at 650 retail locations that include 65,000 parking spaces and 4,400 showers, plus diesel refueling facilities.

The privately owned business has annual revenue of more than $30 billion, according to its statement Monday.

Its agreement with federal prosecutors also does not prevent the Internal Revenue Service from pursuing any civil collection actions. And several companies have filed separate lawsuits against Pilot that are ongoing.

The investigation became public last year when federal agents searched company offices.

“The past 15 months, since the federal government served a search warrant on the company’s headquarters, have been very trying for all involved,” Aubrey Harwell, an attorney for Pilot Flying J, said in the company’s news release.

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