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More Scandal Details Emerge and Diesel Prices Soar

by Jana Ritter - Published: 4/24/2013

In court documents unsealed last week, federal authorities described an ongoing conspiracy where employees of Pilot Flying J would withhold a portion of diesel fuel rebates owed to trucking companies. No charges have been filed yet, but more details are emerging about the search warrants executed last week and naming specific names of those involved in the case. In the 120-page affidavit, authorities say former and current employees cooperated with them and even recorded conversations in which the conspiracy was discussed.

Scandal

Perhaps the most controversial of individuals allegedly revealed in on the scheme, is Pilot Flying J's company president and chief executive, Jimmy Haslam, who also happens to be the high profile owner of the Cleveland Browns football team. According to the documents, Haslam is described as the company's director of national sales and one employee said the fuel rebate scheme to defraud trucking companies was happening with Haslam's knowledge. Haslam, however, denies any wrongdoing.

A Bettendorf man has been also implicated in the scheme and a search warrant was issued for his private residence, but it wasn't clear from the documents whether the search had been carried out. Bettendorf Police Chief Phil Redington said Monday his department was informed last Monday that there was a warrant being executed in the city. The documents described a meeting last November in which Mosher (the Bettendorf man), taught a breakout session where he said few of the company's customers understood discounts, according to a transcript of the conversation contained in the documents. "Some of 'em, some of 'em don't know what a spreadsheet is. I'm not kiddin'," he said, according to the documents. In the same conversation, Mosher also urged others to know their customers, and if they were sophisticated, "don't jack with his discounts, 'cause he's gonna know, okay?"

There are numerous other employees named in the affidavit in connection with the alleged scheme and in addition to Mosher's home, warrants also were sought for five other addresses, four of them in Tennessee, including at Pilot Flying J's offices, and one in Kentucky.

Another highlighted item of the revealed documents is where the company's vice president of sales described to people in a meeting how he had "(messed) up" and had to buy an airplane from a company that had complained it had been shorted money. According to the documents, that admission even drew laughter.

On Monday, Haslam said he had taken steps to address issues raised by the investigation, including placing "several members" of the diesel fuel sales team on administrative leave. He also said that the company was hiring a special investigator and that the federal investigation dealt only with a "narrow slice" of its 3,300 customers.

Pilot Flying J is the country's largest operator of travel centers and plazas in the United States.