Grand jury indicts eight in Pilot Flying J investigation

AP

Dormant for months, the Pilot Flying J investigation has revved up again, in a significant way.

Via WBIR.com, a federal grand jury indicted eight former and current employees of the truck-stop conglomerate on Tuesday, including former president Mark Hazelwood.

Hazelwood, who faces three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of witness tampering, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The eight defendants were informed through their lawyers on Friday to expect the indictments.

For CEO (and Browns owner) Jimmy Haslam, who has not yet been indicted, the key question is whether Hazelwood at some point will change that not guilty plea to guilty, along with an agreement to testify against Haslam.

Hazelwood reported directly to Haslam, and two of the other defendants (V.P. of national accounts Scott Wombold and V.P. of sales Jon Freeman) reported directly to Haslam, based on an organizational chart posted on the WBIR.com Twitter page.

The scandal relates to the manipulation of a rebate program to prey upon unsophisticated customers. In 2014, the company itself struck a deal to avoid prosecution by agreeing to pay a monetary penalty of more than $92 million. The agreement regarding Pilot Flying J was negotiated by attorney Aubrey Harwell. Because he also represents Haslam personally, many has presumed that Haslam is as a practical matter immune from prosecution, even if technically no individuals are exempt.

Hazelwood clearly isn’t exempt, and if he’s in position to give up the kind of evidence that draws the man at the top of the pyramid into the cross hairs, the NFL could have to revisit the position that Haslam committed no violation of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. Otherwise, it would be conspicuous if Haslam is still permitted to attend the Scouting Combine or other league events, given the NFL’s new position on incoming players with criminal records.

60 responses to “Grand jury indicts eight in Pilot Flying J investigation

  1. Out of all the billionaires who wanted to purchase a football team, these clowns pick this clown….why would the owners approve suck a dirt bag….The Browns are doomed until they force this guy to sell, hopefully he will be indicted so the NFL will force him out, it’s the fans only hope….I feel for you Browns fan…..

  2. Wow, I’d love to see the payment package Haslam is going to give Hazelwood if he keeps his yapper shut about the owners knowledge of all of this. Listen, the profit margins didn’t go up because of some new toilets and showers.

  3. “In 2014, the company itself struck a deal to avoid prosecution by agreeing to pay a monetary penalty of more than $92 million. The agreement regarding Pilot Flying J was negotiated by attorney Aubrey Harwell. Because he also represents Haslam personally, many has presumed that Haslam is as a practical matter immune from prosecution, even if technically no individuals are exempt.”

    If that’s true, then money does buy “innocence”.

    and this is why the average person hates the 1%….it may not necessarily be that they hate the person, but they surely hate the double-standard

  4. After 45 years of being a loyal Browns fan this has gotten to the point of absurd. They never should have come back after the Baltimore debacle. The jinx continues.

  5. No wonder the browns cannot field a decent team.

    There is just too much other garbage they have to deal with.

    It is self inflicted, but these issues are probably a good 80-90% of the problem.

    But holy crap it is great for the offseason!

  6. Flying J: “attack formation typically implemented by prison attackers on unsuspecting white collar criminals”

  7. Is it crap on Cleveland day? No wait, that was when the NFL allowed our team to be relocated. No wait, that was when zero due diligence was done regarding Haslam, when the NFL allowed him to buy the team.

  8. In a statement to the press, the beleaguered and oft maligned QB Johnny Manziel said, “I’m disappointed in how Jimmy has handled this. As owner and leads of this team he expects personal accountability from everyone in the organization…except himself.”

  9. Send Haslam to jail, take the Browns away from him and put them in the hands of someone competent and moral (or as moral as an NFL owner can be, anyway). It’s time to blow up the Factory of Sadness and give Browns fans something to actually look forward to.

  10. I wonder how much Haslam made off this rebate scam. I bet it was more than the $92 million he paid in fines.

  11. Only a matter of time before they come for the big guy. Haslam better watch out. Poor Cleveland fans. Could have had Odell and Carr!!

  12. When Cleveland had a decent owner they treated him like crap. So he packed up left and this is what they get… The only thing is cities don’t get to pick the owners!

  13. Silver spooned dirt bag, who would be managing a McDonald’s if it weren’t for mommy and daddy.

  14. Haslam conned millions and millions of dollars from his PilotFlyingJ customers.

    Probably used some of that stolen money to buy the team.

    Yet he has “integrity” right Roger ? I think Goodell doesn’t know what that word means.

    Goodell’s National Integrity League

    Goodell is VILE

    Goodell and his cronies must go

  15. skoobyfl says:
    Feb 9, 2016 4:47 PM

    Where’s Art Modell when you need him ??

    He’s in a better place, although that did not stop some Browns fan from desecrating his grave. The fact his name even comes up here baffles me. Thought he was the most hated person in Cleveland. Now you want him back?

  16. Eddie Debartolo is going into the NFL Hall of Fame this year and the entire city of Indianapolis defended their dope head owner after his late night drug run got ruined by the police. Kind of shows what the standard is. If the Browns win a superbowl under this guy they’ll be saying the victims had it coming for being dumb and he’ll be labeled the greatest owner of all time.

  17. It’s interesting Jimmy has involved his wife Dee in all the new hires lately. He had to have known this was coming down the pike.
    Introducing your new Browns owner, Dee Haslam.

  18. paulrevereshorse1775 says:

    and this is why the average person hates the 1%…
    ==================================

    The average socialist democrat does.

  19. What if you took the team away from him gave it to Jerry, then helped Jerry acquire the Titans, and combine all three? Maybe then you could create one competitive team out of 3 duds.

  20. Perfect example of how our justice system works. If you have enough money,you can get away with almost anything.

    The again,if there’s any political agenda behind not prosecuting a crime you don’t need any money at all.

    So we’re good. Everything balances out.

  21. “and this is why the average person hates the 1%….it may not necessarily be that they hate the person, but they surely hate the double-standard”

    ____________________________________

    You “only” have to make 400k per year to be considered 1%. It’s the .0000084% that are the true crooks.

  22. You’re right about Dee Haslam. Jimmy knew this freight train was coming. He most certainly will be indicted. Nobody is going to jail to be the fall guy for that arrogant clown.

    And goodbye to brother Bill’s political career. The Haslam name and Pilot are forever tarnished.

  23. abninf says:
    Feb 9, 2016 5:48 PM
    paulrevereshorse1775 says:

    and this is why the average person hates the 1%…
    ==================================

    The average socialist democrat does.

    =========

    Since you singled out democrats, then I will assume you feel that the average conservative republican likes the 1%. I tend to disagree with that.

    My point is that money buys influence. And that is what the average person does not like (not necessarily disliking tthe people themselves) …….and that is average people across the political spectrum.

  24. Doubtful an indictment by itself would be enough to get the NFL to take significant action. They didn’t do squat to Irsay after his DWI. Haslam would likely need to be convicted before Goodell even acknowledged the matter and then there’d be a 6-month investigation before finally announcing he was banned from the office on Christmas Day.

  25. Wonder if he has the Chris Carter “fall guy” lined up.

    Good thing they are dying to release Johnny so they can completely get rid of ALL the distractions.

    I feel so bad for CLE fans. Some of the most loyal … and betrayed.

  26. The Feds were sitting on this until the Browns were in the news again, to make their indictment carry the most impact.

    Preferably, they wanted to hand it down when Cleveland reached the Superbowl, but barring that eventuality, the current Johnny Manziel drama was their next best hope.

  27. Who knew Hue?? Be careful of the company you keep!!

    Haslam screwed hard working truckers and their families. Just give it a little more time, one of the eight is going to roll over on Jimmy!!

  28. jvw1982 says:
    Feb 9, 2016 3:52 PM
    Out of all the billionaires who wanted to purchase a football team, these clowns pick this clown….why would the owners approve suck a dirt bag….
    ==================================
    Says a lot about a lot of the owners. All of Goodell’s bozo doings are done with their blessings. Too much easy money to be made from the NFL’s surge in popularity over the past 20 years has drawn the interest of some who’s wealth has come from questionable sources.

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