Since the days following the raid, Jimmy Haslam has maintained he did nothing wrong


CLEVELAND -- It's an anniversary Jimmy Haslam and the rest of Pilot Flying J would likely rather forget: April 15, 2013.

It's the day the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters, making public an investigation into fraud that federal prosecutors say had gone on since 2005.

The FBI affidavit -- unsealed three days later -- is still the only information the U.S. Attorney has ever released.

But experts say the case is not closed.

"I think that everybody in management is pleased with all the progress that's been made," said Jimmy Haslam's attorney, Aubrey Harwell.

"If you think about it, there've been internal audits of all the accounts. Customers have been paid whatever money is owed them, plus six percent interest, plus attorneys' fees. I think they feel good about it. I think, like anybody else, (the Haslams) would like to bring this to a close and have this over and done with."

Since the days following the raid, Jimmy Haslam has maintained he did nothing wrong.

Ten sales staffers have entered guilty pleas, admitting to mail and wire fraud in a rebate scheme that was so complicated many of the trucking companies didn't realize they were being cheated.

Brian Mosher -- perhaps the idea man -- pleaded guilty in January to $20 million in fraud. Prosecutors say he taught others at company workshops. The affidavit suggests that Haslam and other top-level managers, like President Mark Hazelwood, were in attendance.

"My guess is, there will be several more that will be charged," said Harwell. "In my view, there is always, given the facts such as this, the possibility of the company being charged. I have no knowledge of what's going to happen, but that's a possibility."

But when asked if Harwell thought Haslam could be indicted, he said no.

"There's got to be a factual predicate for there to be an indictment. I know of no facts for there to be that basis for charges against Mr. Haslam," he said.

Harwell says that neither Haslam nor the company has received a so-called target letter, but they have been in communication with the U.S. Attorney's office.

"We agreed to cooperate with the government, and we have had communications with them. We have provided them with information they have sought," he said.

Pilot Flying J has paid more than $85 million in lawsuits, including a class-action agreement finalized in November. Harwell says less than 20 civil cases remain.

Last week, the court consolidated seven remaining federal civil cases into one, under the jurisdiction of Kentucky Eastern District Judge Amul R. Thapar. Thapar is considered an expert on the case, who has also ruled on the criminal pleas.

The image of the company may have been tarnished, but sales don't show it. Pilot Flying J is continuing to expand to new markets.

"Business is very good," said a spokesperson.

Haslam is preparing for a new Cleveland Browns season and next month's draft day, foreshadowed on the big screen at a Cleveland premiere last Tuesday.

"I don't see that there is any change in his dedication to the success of the Cleveland Browns," said Harwell. "Both Mr. Haslam and I are in communication with the NFL and there is no issue there."

It's hard to read the strategy inside the U.S. Attorney's office, which won't comment on ongoing investigations. But those who know the process best say indictments are likely, once prosecutors feel they've built a case they are sure they'll win.

It's impossible to know how long that could take, says Harwell.

"I would be hopeful that by a year from now this would be over and done with," he said.

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