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Attorney reiterates Haslam’s lack of knowledge regarding Pilot Flying J fraud

Haslam AP

Today’s news that two executives at Pilot Flying J, the billion-dollar truck-stop mega-company founded by the Haslam family and run by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, pleaded guilty to federal charges confirms that multiple employees were involved in a scam that entailed defrauding customers of rebates.

In the aftermath of the guilty pleas, Haslam’s lawyer reiterated what Haslam has been saying for weeks:  Haslam didn’t know about the fraud.

“Given the raid by federal agents on April 15, 2013 and the affidavit that was filed by FBI agents, this comes as no surprise,” attorney Aubrey Harwell told newsnet5.com.  “You cannot read the affidavit and not realize that people acted inappropriately and agreed to plead guilty.”

The problem for Haslam is that same affidavit contains quotes from a Pilot Flying J employee who told an undercover informant that Haslam was aware of the scam.  As prosecutors commence harvesting guilty pleas along with likely commitments to cooperate in efforts to go higher up the corporate ladder, it could be only a matter of time before someone points the finger at Haslam.

Harwell already is suggesting that any such testimony would constitute a lie.

The lawyer, who represented former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo in the incident that resulted in DeBartolo becoming the former 49ers owner, is “very confident” the persons pleading guilty will “tell the truth,” and that any possibility that Haslam was involved is “non-existent.”  Harwell also attributed to size of the company to Haslam’s lack of knowledge.

Meanwhile, Pilot Flying J issued a statement acknowledging the guilty pleas.

“The statements released by the federal court today do not come as a surprise given what we’ve been learning in our own internal investigations, but are nonetheless disappointing,” a company spokesman said.  “We want to assure our customers that we are taking every step to correct any wrongdoing that has occurred and to make certain that it does not happen again.”

It definitely won’t happen again.  The question is whether and to what extent upper-level executives will face charges for the fraud that already occurred.

For Haslam, both his liberty and his ability to continue owning the Browns could be riding on the outcome of that question.

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27 Responses to “Attorney reiterates Haslam’s lack of knowledge regarding Pilot Flying J fraud”
  1. thestrategyexpert says: May 29, 2013 7:12 PM

    He didn’t know?

    Uhh that’s irrelevant, because he postured like he DID know and that what he THOUGHT he knew was that he was being perfect with integrity.

    So claiming to “not know” is a privilege that he forfeits in my mind because of that prior bogus posturing.

    What a loser.

  2. navyeoddavee9 says: May 29, 2013 7:40 PM

    Didn’t know, not a excuse for the boss. The captain is responsible for the ship.

  3. 1phd says: May 29, 2013 7:41 PM

    He picked Eddie D’s lawyer? LOL Well, brace yourself for the same outcome then.

  4. jseaberry says: May 29, 2013 8:07 PM

    About 8 trucking companies are suing…that’s about half of Flying J’s customers, right.

  5. thereisalwaysnextyear says: May 29, 2013 8:21 PM

    I may be mistaken but Debartelo bribed a Govenor in a gambling license/approval situation. Bribing Govenor and gambling result in being an ex owner. Yet to be seen if being a CEO of a company with some shady rebates rises to that level.

  6. jprcox says: May 29, 2013 8:35 PM

    How much can you trust someone who is probably trying to make a deal with prosecutors to save their own skin – when that person just admitted to scamming people? I wouldn’t call that person a star witness.

  7. clownsfan says: May 29, 2013 8:43 PM

    Jimmy is gonna be just fine

  8. 6sbtitles2sweet says: May 29, 2013 9:04 PM

    that pic in the article is priceless. a women beater and a swindler, clev your on the right road. thank you for selling your crumb share of the steelers.

  9. rcali says: May 29, 2013 9:06 PM

    Did he really think profits were up because his truck stop toilets were better than other truck stop toilets? He’ll pay off enough people to get that slap on the hand that most CEO crooks get.

  10. bigdawgy54 says: May 29, 2013 9:08 PM

    Haslam should sell the Browns, “NOW!” If he refuses then the NFL owners and Commissioner Goodell should bring forth their full weight and powers to force Haslam out of Cleveland.
    This story describes how the federal prosecutors are slowly working their way up the “cheating” ladder at Pilot Flying J. They have an FBI informant who the FBI claims to have recoded Haslam being fully aware of the cheating of customers at his company.
    Haslam and company already have been found to be cheats! They price gouged folks trying to recover from two separate hurricanes. In my opinion, that’s lower than a snake’s belly! It appears that the FBI suspects that the “snake” is still in the cheating business. “Pilot “Cheating” J!
    As a Browns fan, I do not want this guy owning the team that I have followed for fifty eight years! DON’T WANT A CHEAT! WON’T FOLLOW A CHEAT!

  11. skoobyfl says: May 29, 2013 9:26 PM

    He’ll be rich either way, so how bad can it be?

  12. mtheparrothead says: May 29, 2013 9:29 PM

    When in doubt, employ the “Obama defense”.

  13. jetsjetsjetsnow says: May 29, 2013 9:38 PM

    Looks like he’s taking the very effective Obama Defense. “Uh.. Um.. I found out when I heard about it on TV”.

  14. everyoneholdsorakpo says: May 29, 2013 9:51 PM

    Sounds like he’s been talking to the same guys that coach up Obama and Holder. Who knows anything? Surely the boss doesn’t know. Spare me.

  15. green41563 says: May 29, 2013 10:03 PM

    Why do people quote lawyers?

  16. oldbrowndawg says: May 29, 2013 10:14 PM

    Amazing how some folks leap to the conclusion that Haslam “must have known” when so many of these folks (I suspect) continue to claim that high-ranking government officials “couldn’t” have known about the lies surrounding Benghazi, the IRS targeting the regime’s political enemies, etc. No double standard here. Nope, not a trace of it!

  17. evilglazers666 says: May 29, 2013 10:14 PM

    Hope he enjoys prison!

  18. dws123 says: May 29, 2013 10:19 PM

    A season hasn’t even gotten under this turd’s belt and I already don’t want him owning my team.

    How many petty thieves are spending a quarter of their lives in prison while these white-collar billionaire crooks walk around with their noses held high, getting a free pass from society?

    Send Jimmy to the can with the rest of them.

  19. wolff111 says: May 29, 2013 10:27 PM

    This is the end of Jimmy and his brief brownie ownership.

  20. padraighansen says: May 29, 2013 10:31 PM

    Seriously, what is Haslam’s counsel going to say?

    But I can guarantee this – As CEO, Haslam is looking at the numbers on a regular basis, and if he’s not seeing anything that raises the red flags, he’s ignorant.

    And I know – and worked with – many former Pilot senior executives, and I can guarantee you that Jimmy Haslam is not ignorant.

  21. dg0122 says: May 29, 2013 10:33 PM

    amazing how ignorant CEOs suddenly seem to get when feds start poking around…

  22. cascadeplus says: May 29, 2013 10:56 PM

    With Haslam’s lawyer saying, “he didn’t know about the fraud”, Haslam must also be working for the Obama Administration or the IRS. The, “I didn’t know” line seems to be flying around lately.

  23. folkcrusader says: May 29, 2013 11:05 PM

    Jimmy, the Feds just acquired two snitches. Probably best to say nothing until you know what they are going to say.

  24. 4512dawg4512 says: May 29, 2013 11:26 PM

    Its kinda funny how if Jimmy didn’t buy a football team NONE of us would even hear about this.

  25. UPYRS says: May 30, 2013 12:57 AM

    Sell the team Browns have suffered enough. Typical Steeler fan

  26. chewingonlightbulbs says: May 30, 2013 1:12 AM

    Someone needs to bait Jimmy on whether or not he ordered the Code Red.

  27. gbsparks says: May 30, 2013 3:42 AM

    No one here, including Florio, is privy to the details of the investigation, including its scope. It’s all persiflage.

    And bringing in Obama as though a truck stop owner is somehow comparable to a United States President is ridiculous. Except, of course, for the lunatic fringe that will never forgive the majority of the American people for electing a successful black president. Twice!

    Haslam is a truck stop operator, could probably afford to buy a congressional election here or there but never win one fairly, and owner of one of the worst teams in pro football.

    Let the chips fall where they may, but none of you peeps are insiders on either side of this or any other investigation.

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