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Published: Monday, 7/14/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Truck-stop co. owned by Cleveland Browns owner, Tenn. governor, to pay $92M fine for scheme

BLOOMBERG NEWS
The Knoxville-based company was founded by James Haslam II, whose son, Jimmy, now serves as chief executive officer. The younger Haslam is also owner of the Cleveland Browns. The Knoxville-based company was founded by James Haslam II, whose son, Jimmy, now serves as chief executive officer. The younger Haslam is also owner of the Cleveland Browns.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J, the highway truck- stop operator led by the owner of the Cleveland Browns, will pay a $92 million penalty to cap a U.S. investigation into its withholding of customer diesel fuel rebates.

“Pilot has accepted legal responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees, which caused more than $56 million in loss to its customers,” U.S. Attorney William Killian in Knoxville, Tennessee, said today in a statement.

In exchange for the payment and promises to make full restitution to customers and cooperate in the probe, Killian agreed to not prosecute the business, each side said today in separate statements.

Parent Pilot Travel Centers LLC bills itself as the largest operator of travel centers in North America, employing more than 23,000 people at 650 retail locations that include 65,000 parking spaces and 4,400 showers, plus diesel refueling facilities.

The Knoxville-based company was founded by James Haslam II, whose son, Jimmy, now serves as chief executive officer. The younger Haslam is also majority owner of the National Football League’s Browns. The privately owned business has annual revenue of more than $30 billion, according to its statement today.

Office Searched

The investigation became public last year when federal agents searched company offices.

“The past 15 months, since the federal government served a search warrant on the company’s headquarters, have been very trying for all involved,” Aubrey Harwell, an attorney for Pilot Flying J, said in a statement. “The company has cooperated fully with the government and will continue to do so.”

That cooperation includes its agreement to identify employee criminal conduct, said Killian, the prosecutor. Ten workers have pleaded guilty to mail- and wire-fraud charges, he said.

“We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us,” Jimmy Haslam said in the company statement.



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