Thursday, April 18 2013 10:15 PM EDT2013-04-19 02:15:55 GMT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An FBI agent's affidavit says a Pilot Flying J employee told authorities that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam knew about rebate fraud at the truck stop chain his family owns.More >>
An FBI agent's affidavit says a Pilot Flying J employee told authorities that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam knew about rebate fraud at the truck stop chain his family owns.More >>
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -
Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam says he has suspended several members of the sales team at Pilot Flying J, the family-owned truck stop chain that is under a federal fraud investigation.
FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents last week raided the Knoxville headquarters of the country's largest diesel retailer. An affidavit filed in federal court alleges a widespread scheme to defraud customer trucking companies out of diesel fuel rebates owed to them for years.
Haslam, the privately held company's CEO and brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, on Tuesday didn't name the people placed on administrative leave but said the company will also conduct an internal audit and hire an outside investigator to independently look into the allegations.
Jimmy Haslam has denied wrongdoing and dismissed suggestions he step aside from running Pilot or the Browns while the investigation is underway.
Secretly recorded conversations among the sales team said Jimmy Haslam was aware of at least some instances of employees withholding rebates from Pilot customers.
As federal agents raided Pilot's headquarters in Knoxville, they even executed a search warrant at a Nashville home on Dakota Avenue where pilot employee Kevin Hanscomb lives.
The feds were looking for emails, laptops and any documents related to the alleged rebate fraud.
Nobody answered when the Channel 4 I-Team stopped by the home.
The Channel 4 I-Team has also discovered federal investigators are trying to find out whether Pilot regional sales directors decided others needed to learn how to scheme their customers.
The federal affidavit said company account managers were taught what Pilot employees called "manual rebates" at their annual sales meeting in November 2012.
However, the FBI said that was nothing more than a code word for their alleged intentional and deceptive practice. Federal agents said that at other times employees referred to it as "trimming," "adjusting" and even "screwing."
Now, at least one of the trucking companies that may have been defrauded is firing back.
The Atlantic Coast Carriers, Inc., a trucking company out of Georgia, has laid the groundwork for what could be a class-action lawsuit against the Haslam family business.
The lawsuit claims Pilot executives and staff conspired to reduce rebates owed to Atlantic and numerous other customers to increase Pilot profits and sales commissions.
A number of trucking companies have been named as victims in this alleged rebate fraud.
The Channel 4 I-Team asked the governor's office for reaction to this latest lawsuit and whether or not they are concerned about any political fallout.
The governor, who is a shareholder in the company, did not have any additional comments Monday, but he has been standing by his brother and his family's business since the story broke last week.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.