More than five years after the truck-stop company owned and operated by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam found itself ensnared in a massive federal investigation for fraud against its customers, three more former executives learned their fate on Wednesday.
Former regional sales director Arnold Ralenkotter received 21 months, former regional sales manager Jay Stinnett also received 21 months, and former regional sales manager John Spiewak received 30 months. They admitted to approving contracts that they knew the Pilot Flying J didn’t plan to honor with small trucking companies lacking the sophistication to spot the fraud.
Via Matt Lakin of the Knoxville News Sentinel, U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier imposed the sentences on Wednesday.
“This was probably the biggest fraud case in the history of the trucking industry,” Judge Collier said. “You’re all good people who did something bad. I don’t think there’s a need here to protect the public [from you]. But people need to understand if they give in to temptation and do anything at all like what you did, there’s going to be punishment forthcoming. You’ve learned your lesson, but other people need to learn their lesson also.”
Nineteen former Pilot employees were involved in the scam. Fourteen entered guilty pleas and three were convicted at trial. Two others received immunity in exchange for cooperation.
Former Pilot Flying J president Mark Hazelwood received the longest sentence — 12.5 years. He approved the plan that was devised by John Freeman, who received a 2.5-year sentence.
In the early months of the investigation, prosecutors seemed to be working their way up the ladder, imposing criminal responsibility as high as possible within the organization. But they never accused Haslam, who steadfastly denied knowledge of the scam, of committing any type of wrongdoing.
Likewise, the NFL never investigated Haslam for any violations of the Personal Conduct Policy, which as evidenced by the suspension imposed earlier this year on Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks clearly encompasses white-collar crime.