Pilot Flying J Trial: Haslam 'Absolutely' Knew About Scheme to Defraud Truckers

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The trial against four former Pilot Flying J executives is ongoing in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

On Tuesday, the trial's sixth day, the big news was that jurors were played a secret recording in which a former vice president said that CEO Jimmy Haslam "absolutely" knew about the company's rebate scheme.

Not only that, he "loved it."

From the recording of VP John "Stick" Freeman:
“I mean, I called Jimmy and told him I got busted at Western Express … He knew – absolutely. I mean, (Haslam) knew all along that I was cost-plussin’ (code for the fraud scheme) this guy. He knew it all along. Loved it. We were making $450,000 a month on (Western Express).”

Western Express is a trucking company, one of many that Pilot Flying J defrauded by providing incomplete rebate payments on diesel fuel purchases.

Freeman also said on the recording that “it wasn’t a secret” at Pilot Flying J that the firm’s manual rebate system was being used to defraud trucking companies.

Still, Haslam has maintained that he never knew about the scheme. Pilot Flying J released a statement Tuesday reiterating Haslam's ignorance.

“As we have said from the outset, Jimmy Haslam was not aware of any wrongdoing,” the statement read.

Though Haslam himself has not been charged, the investigation has already produced 14 guilty pleas by former employees, including Freeman, the recorded VP. Former President Mark Hazelwood is among the four currently on trial.

Jimmy Haslam, of course, is also the owner of the Cleveland Browns.

Pilot Flying J is headquartered in Knoxville. The company's board of directors has confessed criminal responsibility in the scheme and agreed to pay $92 million as punishment. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that Pilot Flying J has also paid out $85 million in settlements with trucking companies and is now paying for the defense of Hazelwood and the other executives.

The Freeman recording had never been heard in public before jurors heard it Tuesday.

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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