Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's company Pilot Flying J will not be prosecuted for any wrongdoing as part of an agreement with the federal government involving alleged fraud against client trucking companies.
Pilot Flying J operates hundreds of highway travel plazas across the country, and was accused in the spring of 2013 of cheating customers out of rebates and discounts owed under its diesel fuel sales discount program.
The U.S. Attorney for eastern Tennessee, William Killian, says in a written statement that Pilot has accepted legal responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees, which caused more than $56 million in loss to its customers, and to pay full restitution.
Under what is called a "Criminal Enforcement Agreement," Pilot Flying J will not be prosecuted, provided it pays the government $92 million in penalties and continues to cooperate with an ongoing justice department investigation. The agreement is neither an indictment nor a finding of guilt.
Haslam's company was raided by the FBI in April, 2013, less than a year after the Tennesee businessman bought the Cleveland Browns. Numerous employees pleaded guilty to mail fraud and other charges after their activities were revealed in wiretap recordings.
Haslam himself always maintained he knew nothing about the fraud and was committed to making good on the rebates.
The company settled a class action lawsuit, agreeing to pay back wronged companies with interest. Some companies stayed out of that suit, and a spokesman for Pilot says a few of them may still be active, but he couldn't say how many.
In a written statement, Haslam is quoted as saying, "We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us, continuing our efforts to rectify the damage done, regaining our customers' trust, and getting on with our business."