CHATTANOOGA, Tenn -- Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam claims he was not aware of the multi-million dollar fraud scheme at Pilot Flying J that resulted in guilty pleas from 14 of his employees.
But Tuesday, a federal jury heard a secret recording of Haslam making reference to one employee who knowingly overcharged a client, as well as testimony from another former Pilot Flying J employee who claims Haslam knew his staff was taking advantage of small trucking companies.
Haslam has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
But, he is the CEO of Pilot Flying J and the company has admitted to criminal responsibility for overcharging customers and agreed to repay $85 million in restitution, plus another $92 million in fines.
The jury heard Haslam's voice on a secret recording from a training session for Pilot Flying J employees, where the company's former president, Mark Hazelwood explained the fraud scheme as 'savings'.
Haslam says, "That sounds like Stick's old deal with western..."
John "Stick" Freeman, Pilot Flying J's former vice president of sales, was caught overcharging a trucking company called Western Express.
But, Pilot Flying J agreed to make good, by buying a dilapidated airplane from the company for $1 million.
In another recording played for the jury, Freeman says Haslam absolutely knew about the scheme, because Freeman told him and Haslam loved it.
FOX 8 reached out to the Browns, the NFL and Pilot Flying J for comment on the audio recording.
An NFL spokesperson said the league does not have any comment at this time.
A company spokesperson says,
“As we have said from the outset, Jimmy Haslam was not aware of any wrongdoing.”