Trouble in Cleveland: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam under FBI investigation for fraud
Perhaps "Trouble in Cleveland" is a misleading headline -- the FBI raid on Haslam's Pilot Flying J truck stop chain headquarters occurred in Knoxville, Tennessee, and there are only about two dozen Flying Js or Pilot Travel Centers in the Cleveland metropolitan area. But this is just not good news for Browns fans to see their fresh new franchise owner under FBI investigation. Last time we saw something like this from an NFL owner, Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. was forced to hand his franchise over to his completely disinterested sister.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Jimmy Haslam is under investigation by the FBI for a fraud scheme conducted by Pilot Flying J, Haslam's family business that runs a nationwide chain of truck stops and interstate travel centers. Pilot Flying J headquarters was raided by the FBI on Monday, while your attention was more focused on the tragic events in Boston.
Did I mention Pilot Flying J is a "family business", and Jimmy Haslam's brother Bill Haslam is the current sitting governor of the state of Tennessee? People, this is about to get interesting.
The fraud allegations regard an alleged scheme in which Pilot Flying J offered rebates to small trucking companies, and just cold never paid out said rebates. An FBI affadavit says that "The rebate fraud has occurred with the knowledge of Pilot's current President Mark Hazelwood and Pilot's Chief Executive Officer James A. 'Jimmy' Haslam III due to the fact that the rebate fraud-related activities have been discussed during sales meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., in which Hazelwood and Haslam have been present."
This just creates more distraction and near-term uncertainty for the Cleveland Browns franchise. You think recently fired Browns GM Mike Holmgren is chuckling to himself right now? I think recently fired Browns GM Mike Holmgren is chuckling to himself right now.