(WBIR - Knoxville) Tuesday marked an anniversary Jimmy Haslam and Pilot Flying J will not celebrate. On April 15, 2013, the FBI raided the Knoxville headquarters of the nation's largest truck stop chain and diesel dealer.
Since then, 10 employees have pleaded guilty to fraud for their role in a complex scheme that secretly ripped off trucking companies on millions of dollars of owed rebates. Those guilty pleas included a promise to assist the feds with the ongoing investigation that keeps working its way up the Pilot corporate ladder.
Aubrey Harwell, the attorney for CEO Jimmy Haslam,said he is confident any future indictments for fraud will not go all the way to the top.
"I know of no facts that would create that basis for charges against Mr. Haslam," said Harwell in a telephone interview.
Harwell said while he does not believe Haslam is a target in the federal investigation, he predicts there will be future indictments against other Pilot employees.
"My guess is there will be several more that will be charged," said Harwell.
Affidavits from last year's raid include transcripts of secretly recorded conversations between employees who say Jimmy Haslam knew about the scheme. However, Haslam has repeatedly claimed he had no knowledge of the fraud until after last year's FBI raid.
This week Haslam issued an anniversary statement and called April 15, 2013, an "extremely embarrassing and humbling day" and the company has tried to "make things right."
Pilot has spent more than $85 million on lawsuits and settlements to pay back victims what they were owed plus interest.
While Pilot's reputation may have taken a hit, it has not stopped customers from continuing to pump plenty of cash into the company. Pilot Flying J's estimated annual revenues are more than $28 billion. To put that number in perspective, Pilot generates more annual revenue than the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association combined.
Haslam, who also owns the NFL's Cleveland Browns, has gotten back to the business of football this month with the upcoming NFL draft. There's even a new Hollywood movie called "Draft Day" that is based on the Browns, which Haslam has said is "great for the Cleveland Browns brand."
The last year was anything but great for the brand that built Haslam into a billionaire. Legal experts told WBIR that the main sign that will indicate the investigation of Pilot is over will be when those who pleaded guilty are sentenced for their crimes. Those employees will remain unpunished during the investigation as they cooperate with prosecutors and testify against coworkers.
Until the guilty pleas start turning into sentences and real jail time, the case against Pilot is not closed.