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Jimmy Haslam's company engaged in fraud, FBI affidavit says

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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An FBI agent's affidavit, which was unsealed Thursday in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., alleges that Pilot Flying J -- the truck stop operator owned by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam -- engaged in a fraud scheme designed to keep money owed to its customers.

According to the documents, multiple current and former employees of the company told authorities that Haslam, who purchased the Browns for $1.05 billion last October, knew of the fraud and was present at meetings where it was discussed. The NFL declined to comment on the matter.

Haslam released the following statement 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. I value the relationships we have with our customers, our vendors and our team members across this country and regret that they have to go through this with us, but I trust and believe their faith in this company and its principles has never been misplaced."

According to The Associated Press, Haslam arrived in Cleveland on Thursday, three days after FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents executed four search warrants at Pilot Flying J company headquarters in Knoxville.

The AP reported that at a Tuesday news conference in Knoxville, Haslam revealed the government is investigating rebates offered by the truck stop chain, but said, "We believe we did nothing wrong." His family -- including his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam -- owns 59 percent of the business.

"The governor is aware of the affidavit," David Smith, press secretary for Bill Haslam, said Thursday in a statement to NFL.com and NFL Network. "He has faith in Pilot to do the right thing, and he continues to have absolute faith in his brother's integrity. This investigation is in the early stages, and the governor would encourage people to withhold judgment until all of the facts are known."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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