Update: Nov. 15, 2017
A former truck stop company executive boasted in a secretly recorded conversation that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam "loved it" when the sales team ripped off customers.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the jury in the federal fraud trial of former Pilot Flying J executives and sales representatives heard a recording of former vice president John "Stick" Freeman saying Haslam was aware of the scheme to deprive trucking customers of the diesel discounts they had negotiated.
In Freeman's words: "He knew - absolutely."
Pilot, which is controlled by the Haslam family, issued a statement reiterating that "Jimmy Haslam was not aware of any wrongdoing."
Haslam hasn't been charged in the investigation that has resulted in 14 guilty pleas among former Pilot employees. Four others are on trial in Chattanooga.
The trial was in session Monday and Tuesday, but is on hold until next week. Testimony will resume Monday.
Update: Nov. 10, 2017
The fraud trial of former executives and sales representatives at the truck stop chain run by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is wrapping up its first week.
The attorney for the company's onetime president has signaled the relationship between Haslam and one of the chief conspirators will become a focus of the defense.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the lawyer for former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood raised the issue Thursday in the cross-examination of a former director. The ex-director is one of 14 executives and sales representatives who have pleaded guilty in the case.
Haslam has denied any prior knowledge about the scheme to defraud unsophisticated trucking company customers and has not been charged in the case.
Hazelwood and three others are on trial in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Update: Nov. 7, 2017
Attorneys for two former executives at the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain say their clients shouldn't be found guilty by association with 14 members of the company's sales team who pleaded guilty in a scheme to defraud customers through diesel fuel rebates.
Former Pilot President Mark Hazelwood, former vice president Scott "Scooter" Wombold and two former saleswomen, Heather Jones and Karen Mann, entered their second day of trial Tuesday. Federal prosecutors say some of their colleagues will testify against them.
The rebate scam caused Pilot to pay an $85 million settlement and a $92 million penalty. The company is controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who have denied any prior knowledge of the scheme and have not been charged.
Original story: Nov. 6, 2017
Federal prosecutors have outlined their case against former executives at Pilot Flying J as the result of an "infection of fraud" within the sales department of the truck stop chain controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lewen told jurors on Monday that the four defendants participated in a widespread scheme to undercut competitors, boost company profits and reap the rewards in terms of personal compensation.
Lewen said several of 14 former Pilot colleagues who have already pleaded guilty in the investigation will be called to testify, though he warned jurors that their role in the scheme to rip off unsuspecting trucking company customers may give them pause. In Lewen's words: "There are no swans in the sewer."
The trial comes after a 2013 raid by federal agents on the Knoxville headquarters of privately held Pilot Flying J. Fourteen former members of the sales team pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to rip off trucking company customers they deemed too unsophisticated to realize they weren't receiving the rebates they had negotiated. The company's former president is among those facing trial Monday.
Pilot agreed to an $85 million settlement with most of the defrauded customers as well as a $92 million penalty to the government. The Haslam brothers have denied any prior knowledge.