Browns Owner: Pilot Flying J Under Criminal Probe


NASHVILLE (AP) – Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Tuesday the federal government has launched a criminal investigation into rebates offered by the truck stop chain owned by his family, including his brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided the Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville on Monday.

Jimmy Haslam, who is the CEO of Pilot Flying J, held a news conference in Knoxville to confirm the investigation is criminal, rather than civil, in nature.

"We don't know a lot. It appears to be centered on a very insufficient number of customers and the application of rebates, that rebates that were owed to the customers were not paid. We of course disagree with that," the CEO said.

Bill Killian, the U.S. Attorney in Knoxville, told The Associated Press that four search warrants have been served on Pilot, but the reasons have been sealed by a federal court.

The company said in a statement that there were two search warrants.

Earlier Tuesday, the Republican governor made an impromptu visit to the press suite in the legislative office complex in Nashville to discuss the raid.

The governor said he had spoken with his brother but didn't have any further details on which records the agents were searching for. He said Jimmy Haslam stressed "they are going to cooperate fully, and that he firmly believes they haven't done anything wrong, and I have faith and confidence in him."

"Beyond that I don't really know a lot, so I'm going to go back to being governor and doing things I can control," he said.

Bill Haslam said he has not had an active day-to-day management role in the company in 15 years. He has kept his unspecified holdings in the privately owned company outside of a blind trust he established for his other investments after he was elected governor in 2010.

Sainz reported from Memphis, Tenn. AP writer Steve Megargee contributed to this story from Knoxville, Tenn.

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