Pilot Flying J CEO and majority owner of the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise Jimmy Haslam has been indicted on fuel rebate fraud charges. At least that was the report by Cleveland’s WEWS Channel 5 on Friday.
The report was removed from the news station’s web site later that day and it was announced that an internal investigation was underway to determine how the erroneous report was posted.
By Ralph Battiata – @RalphB1471
A 120-page affidavit for a search warrant filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, TN in April of 2013 says Pilot Flying J sales employees withheld fuel price rebates and discounts from certain companies to boost profitability of the company and increase their sales commissions. The affidavit states FBI and IRS agents are investigating charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud. The document claims “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, TN, in which Hazelwood and Haslem have been present.”
Haslam’s response to the affidavit for search warrant by the FBI and IRS: “I read the affidavits and I understand more clearly the questions the federal investigators are exploring. I maintain that the foundation of this company is built on the it’s integrity and that any willful wrongdoing by any employee of this company at any time is intolerable.”
Haslam then issued a statement in September of 2013 saying that “Pilot Flying J was working to pay back, with interest, any trucking company that was duped in the rebate fraud.” Sure sounds like a guilty party to me and the WEWS Channel 5 employee that posted the erroneous report Friday. In any effect, someone got a case of premature execution or a case of that dreaded itchy trigger finger that caused them to publish this report to the masses. I guess we’ll have to wait for the FBI and IRS investigation to conclude before we can draw our own conclusion in this case.