CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Federal prosecutors have outlined their case against former executives at Pilot Flying J as the result of an "infection of fraud" within the sales department of the truck stop chain controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lewen told jurors on Monday that the four defendants participated in a widespread scheme to undercut competitors, boost company profits and reap the rewards in terms of personal compensation.
Lewen said several of 14 former Pilot colleagues who have already pleaded guilty in the investigation will be called to testify, though he warned jurors that their role in the scheme to rip off unsuspecting trucking company customers may give them pause. In Lewen's words: "There are no swans in the sewer."
The trial comes after a 2013 raid by federal agents on the Knoxville headquarters of privately held Pilot Flying J. Fourteen former members of the sales team pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to rip off trucking company customers they deemed too unsophisticated to realize they weren't receiving the rebates they had negotiated. The company's former president is among those facing trial Monday.
Pilot agreed to an $85 million settlement with most of the defrauded customers as well as a $92 million penalty to the government. The Haslam brothers have denied any prior knowledge.