Ever since the headquarters of the largest chain of truck stops in the country was raided by the FBI this past April, business at Pilot Flying J rest areas has continued as usual and several new stops have opened up across the country. Rebates that were allegedly fraudulently withheld are being refunded, a class-action suit quietly drew to a close, and even though new lawsuits are still emerging all over the country, day to day operations remain the same. Except for the sales team.
Despite the outward calm, the company is reeling. Eleven former Pilot Flying J employees ranging from account managers to vice presidents have already entered guilty pleas to felony charges that could cost them as much as 20 years in prison and fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most have agreed to cooperate with the investigation, and four of those employees are providing sufficient information to be granted immunity.
Lester Munson, a legal analyst with ESPN has stated that the FBI is currently investigating whether Jimmy Haslam, the CEO of the company, owner of the Cleveland Browns, and brother to the Governor of Tennessee, was involved in or knew about the alleged fuel rebate scam.
“They are going through literally millions of pages of documents,” said Munson in an interview on ESPN. “They are interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses, and sometime between now and February of next year we will find out whether Haslam himself will be charged in this massive fraud.”
Despite Haslam’s claims that he knew nothing about the fuel rebate scheme the FBI affidavit, two confidential informants, and now “unnamed lawyers involved in the investigation of Pilot Flying J,” think otherwise.
“Late last month, federal prosecutors, in a major signal, arranged to postpone the sentencing of the seven to allow the FBI to continue its probe,” wrote Munson in an ESPN article. “The delay shows that the investigation is growing beyond earlier expectations, say lawyers and an investigator involved in the probe who spoke to ESPN.com on condition of anonymity.”
Though there have been no official reports confirming or denying, it now appears very likely that Haslam will be charged with a crime. If he does end up being charged, he will be in very serious trouble. According to Munson, “There is so much money involved and it would be such as massive case that it would be the kind of charge that would absolutely certainly produce penitentiary time.”