Documents filed in court Thursday claim that Cleveland Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam's company, Pilot Flying J, committed fraud "for many years" by failing to pay back rebates owed to customers. The claims also stated that Haslam knew about the fraud that was occurring in his family business, the largest chain of truck stops and travel centers in the country. The FBI and IRS searched the company's Knoxville headquarters on Monday after obtaining four warrants, Cleveland.com writer, John Caniglia, writes.
Haslam, who bought the team for just over $1 billion in October, made a statement on Thursday:
"I've read the affidavits. I now understand more clearly the questions the federal investigators are exploring. I maintain that the foundation of this company is built on its integrity and that any willful wrongdoing by any employee of this company at any time is intolerable. We will continue to cooperate with the federal investigation and continue our own investigation in these allegations."
A 120-page affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee, says Pilot Flying J sales employees withheld fuel price rebates and discounts for five to seven years in an attempt to boost the profitability of the company.
All this apparently happened with the knowledge of President Mark Hazelwood and CEO Jimmy Haslam, an employee identified as a confidential source told investigators. The employee stated that the rebate scheme was discussed during sales meetings attended by Haslam and Hazelwood.
Haslam continued with business as usual and returned to Cleveland on Thursday. He also continued his stance that the company committed no wrongdoing by saying, "I value the relationships we have with our customers… I trust and believe their faith in this company and its principles has never been misplaced.”
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