Browns

Jimmy Haslam’s voice on tapes during Pilot Flying J fraud trial

Many former Pilot Flying J employees have already entered guilty pleas. More are currently on trial with the testimony and evidence provided by the first batch. The one thing we didn’t know was if the finger-pointing would end up directed at Pilot Flying J chief and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. The first clue that maybe, just maybe, things weren’t going to go well for the bungling Browns owner is when he and Warren Buffett announced that Jimmy was selling his family’s business in early October ahead of the start of the trial. It stands to reason that a big, powerful business owner who is extending the legacy of his family business from the second generation on into the future wouldn’t have “selling out” on the top of the list of priorities unless there was some other intervening reason. On November 28 in a Tennessee courtroom, nearly two months after the Buffett acquisition announcement, we might finally have the real evidence that Jimmy Haslam has some legal issues ahead that caused him to sell his business to Warren Buffett.

Jamie Satterfield of the Knoxville News Sentinel was there in the courtroom when secret audio was played that included the voice of Jimmy Haslam. Satterfield reports that Haslam’s voice was heard at a training session in which fraud was being taught to sales employees. Jimmy reportedly joked with other Pilot executives about a time when Pilot Flying J got caught cheating a customer and made up for it by purchasing that company’s dilapidated old plane for $1 million.

After Haslam’s joke, another Pilot Flying J employee makes references to “manuel,” which is allegedly the short-hand term that they would use to describe “manual” rebates. And by manual, they mean they manually changed them to screw customers out of the discounts and rebates that they had been promised. Manuel was also a term that was reportedly used because Pilot Flying J employees especially loved to use these tactics on Hispanic companies and less sophisticated customers.

In today’s tapes, the person calling them “Manuel” was former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood. The new tape revelation from court likely proves that term was used more widely in Pilot’s sales culture. When this was reported back in 2013, it was attributed to a sales director Kevin Hanscomb.

The nicknames for the alleged manual rebate fraud scheme also include variations of “Manual” to become a Hispanic name pronounced “Manuel” or “Manwell.”

The transcripts quote Pilot’s director of sales for the east region, Kevin Hanscomb, as saying, “They’re not stupid, there is a language barrier. So you can get away with a little bit more because they know that they are not going to understand everything that you say.”

The transcript continues with quotes from Hanscomb that say Hispanic owners in South Florida would allow some “forgiveness” and believe they may have misunderstood rather than conclude the salesperson was involved in fraud.

Here’s Jamie Satterfield describing the courtroom scene in her own words.

This can’t be good news for Jimmy Haslam who has proclaimed that he never knew anything about the fraudulent rebate scam that has so many employees pleading guilty and for which Pilot Flying J has already paid massive fines and restitution. Haslam hasn’t been charged with any crimes yet, but the word “yet” feels more solid than it’s ever felt.

There’s just no telling where this could end for Jimmy Haslam and what it could eventually mean for the Cleveland Browns. It can’t be good for Haslam’s overall focus on the worst team in professional football that’s enduring one of the worst streaks in the history of professional sports.

  • Bradley L. Hamilton

    The Donald Trump of the NFL, or Donald Trump was the Jimmy Haslem of the USFL? Not sure.

  • NOPER

    I was wondering when this story would get posted here. Jimmy is the perfect case for owners to force the sale of a team for so many reasons outside being terrible at being an owner. Among the people he scammed were the USPS. That’s right he scammed the feds! Flying J the company admitted guilt and paid restitution so there’s no doubt on guilt. The amount of screwed Jimmy is cannot be described. God I love it!

  • jpftribe

    20 years ago, this would be a big deal. Today, a blurb in the fake news cycle and onward we march.

    Now, if he had taken a knee during the National Anthem……..

  • Chris
  • Harv

    Article VIII of the NFL’s Constitution & Bylaws, Section 8.13 authorizes the Commissioner to determine that an owner “has been or is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football.” If the Commissioner believes the available sanction (a $500,000 fine) is “not adequate or sufficient,” the Commissioner may refer the issue to the NFL’s Executive Committee, which has the power to compel “[c]ancellation or forfeiture of the franchise in the League of any member club involved or implicated,” with a directive to sell the team.

    C’mon prosecutors, reel him in gently, come to daddy …

  • RGB

    Is this good or bad for The Process?

  • MartyDaVille

    But if the feds bring the hammer down on Jimmy, Dee might be able to maintain control of the team, since she hasn’t been implicated in anything (so far). The 49ers franchise stayed in the DeBartolo family after Eddie got busted. It’s not exactly the same situation, but . . .

  • WFNY_DP

    True, but times have changed. The NFL will bend over backwards to avoid negative publicity right now, as evidenced by the kneeling thing and giving Zeke a six gamer based on total “trust us” evidence.

  • CBiscuit

    Haslam: “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start grabbing them. It’s like a magnet. Just grab. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

    Jerry Jones: “Whatever you want.”

    Haslam: “Grab ’em by the grab. You can do anything.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6514a1d7f0054de8826fbe4b1c0fb9920b1660076172380412a890db98f7b268.jpg

  • humboldt

    Presented with an opportunity to go public with his abuse, Weeden has instead gone into hiding

    https://patriotsesp.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/post-32404-brandon-weeden-fail-gif-under-bzwa.gif?w=474

  • humboldt

    Nationalize Pilot Flying J, Nationalize the Browns!

  • humboldt

    Why gently? I want a perp walk out of Berea through a gauntlet of former Browns QBs using American Gladiator jousting wands http://mimg.ugo.com/201012/7/2/9/133927/cuts/joust_480_poster.jpg

  • scripty

    They will move the team to Dee. They have filthy money and are now liquid due to the Warren Buffet purchase agreement. Putting a team to market before necessary can lower the value too, nor does the NFL want to spend more in court. The owners are de facto paying these attorney costs and they already kvetch about spending on the EE and Brady probes.

    I just don’t see a scenario where they are forced to sell. If anything, they can use this to prop up diversity in ownership.

  • Allen P

    I’ll accept Green Bay-style civic control of the Browns, for sure (and yes, before anyone corrects me I know the NFL has already precluded this evil possibility)

  • RGB

    The Packers are neither “owned”, nor controlled by the public in any way.
    That narrative is a popular myth.

  • CBiscuit

    Maybe so, but it shouldn’t stop us from creating a model where the people of Green Bay run the Browns. Can’t hurt?

  • Allen P

    OK, can you provide some details? The quick link-reading I did suggests that the team is a non-profit organization funded by public sale of shares and controlled by an elected board.

  • RGB
  • humboldt

    So let’s make it a reality in Cleveland!

  • Allen P

    Read that one. Whether or not that Deadspin writer’s opinion of what the value of owning a share of the Packers is worth, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a publicly-owned non profit and is much less likely (perhaps impossible?) to relocate the team.

    https://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2017/3/29/15098690/the-packers-will-never-move-because-of-worthless-pieces-of-paper-owners-stock-certificates

    https://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/those-non-profit-packers

  • Allen P

    And I don’t intend to be moving goalposts by mentioning the relocation issue, but rather clarifying what I see as the major value of that type of ownership vs. what other teams have.

  • MartyDaVille

    CUP CHECK!!!

  • Chris

    Go further north. I can see it now…

    The Cleveland Browns: “Canada’s Team”

  • BenRM

    Isn’t it sad that this is actually how the news covers news now?

  • Sonny

    Sell the team? Ridiculous. What do you think all the Buffet and Dee machinations were for? Give the billionaires some credit. Team ownership ain’t changing, and if it does Jimmy and Dee are up close to bil. #winning #richgetricher #the1%

  • humboldt

    I would say “seize the means of production”, but, what production?

    I’ll be here all day, folks

  • Garry_Owen
  • tsm

    Even thought the NFL now prohibits this, I have long advocated that the team do this anyway and then dare the league to stop them. I suspect that the city might prevail. This would put a stop to all the “gun to the head” negotiations for new stadiums.

  • tsm

    In the interest of non partisanship, please add – Clinton to the above.

  • mgbode

    yes

  • So none of this will make any difference and he will continue doing what he’s doing without consequence, buoyed by his rabid supporters who would rather see everything burn than even consider that he might be wrong?

    https://media.giphy.com/media/adejoiEIuChzi/200.gif

  • humboldt

    “The 1%” should just about cover it

  • humboldt

    Seriously, I love the idea. We just have to get Craig to change his campaign from “Sell the Browns” to “Seize the Browns”.

    Step 1: Occupy Lou Groza Blvd.
    Step 2: Usher out the front office and fly them to Johnson’s Island to spend the rest of their days. Also pack up all the oranger-orange uniforms and airdrop them on said island so that the inhabitants have ample clothing.
    Step 3: Eat lunch.
    Step 4: Install mgbode as GM.
    Step 5: Establish a social democracy with WFNY commenters having the ability to dictate the GM’s decisions through upticks.
    Step 6: Commence month-long exorcism of Gpodawund.

  • Steve

    When no one can buy actual voting power, and you receive not only none of the profits, but no proceeds, not even your money back, in a sale, you may technically, but not in reality, own a share of the team.

  • Steve

    The other 31 owners would gladly burn this franchise in a heartbeat than set any kind of precedent that that would happen to them.

  • KFunk

    #haslamisacrook #sellthebrowns

  • tsm

    It’s a plan!

  • Harv

    This is part of The Process! Your Harvard-educated lawyer is a stone cold, power-grabbing oracle.

  • RGB

    He sold his soul to GPODAWUND.

  • WFNY_DP

    Haven’t the results on the field lowered the value enough?
    /s

  • Harv

    haven’t we all …

  • mgbode

    I take a day away from the boards and I get more work to do? I would worry about Step 5, but I trust in my coding abilities to ensure that it doesn’t become an issue. Oh wait, did I just use my outside voice?

  • humboldt

    Oh, we’ll have the Russians keep a close eye on your internet activities, my friend

  • JustReality1

    So much wasted speculation……no one is thinking about this realistically. Haslam will never be charged and all the talk about the future of the browns is a moot point. I will explain: If Haslam was ever going to be indicted, it would have happened last year when the indictments came down in one big swoop. Everyone is forgetting the feds had all this information such as the call from the sales exec to Haslam about “being caught” and then having his voice recorded in meetings that were wire tapped. Why/how did they have/know this from the beginning??? BECAUSE THE FEDS WERE THE ONES THAT RAN THE INVESTIGATION AND GATHERED ALL THIS INFORMATION BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. So the real question the jury should have for the prosecution is why wasn’t he indicted as well. Lucky for them jurors can’t ask questions like that. It does make the prosecution look shady which is the backbone of the defense’s strategy IMO.

  • Harv

    Disagree with your analysis. Even if the feds had the recordings early, the classic method is to pick off the lower level employees with indictments and to offer them plea deals to testify against the highest level employees they can personally implicate, in exchange for sentencing recommendation considerations. The prosecutors then treat that next level employees the same way if they can personally implicate someone higher. Buttressing recordings and the like with personal testimony implicating a higher up is the goal, as audio recordings without context can be interpreted a number of ways.

  • Pat Leonard

    That’s not how the FBI works when they’re going after big game. They indict the highest level guys that are 100% dead-to-rights in hopes that they’ll roll over on someone higher up to get a lesser sentence. These guys are scumbags and I fully expect them to roll over on Haslam as hard as they possibly can to get out of prison sentences.

  • Pat Leonard

    I should have read your response first, of course. ^ What he said.

  • JustReality1

    I understand how the FBI works. And they infac
    t did implement that classic method into this scandal: After the initial raid, mostly lower tier employees (a few upper management like some regional managers did too, but no one at that senior top level(VP and up)) in the sales group took plea deals at that time. As time has gone on, the plea deals have worked their way through VP level employees. And many of these employees having been testifying for the prosecution mainly against the former president Mark Hazelwood (in lieu of hopefully getting a lighter sentence). This plea bargaining/indictment process has evolved over a period of 5 years now. This is what you all aren’t understanding…….there is no one left between Mark Hazelwood as President and JImmy Haslam as CEO. There’s no one else left except Jimmy Haslam. And the rolling started long ago and is continuing through this trial……all the prosecution’s witnesses have said under oath that Jimmy knew about it…….the defense attorneys for these 4 employees on trial have said the same thing. The feds have him on tape for Christ’s sake. They have every bit of information they need to make that indict happened but that wasn’t the way this was going to play out.
    MArk is a huge fish as well. Pilot Flying J doesn’t have heavy multiple layers of management. If Jimmy was ever going to be indicted it would have been when Hazelwood was indicted and that’s a fact. Hazelwood’s position was right below Jimmy’s but make no mistake, Mark Hazelwood had almost as much power as Jimmy. Everyone there knew how high of a seat Mark had and it wasn’t far from Jimmy. Hazelwood is the one that is literally responsible for bringing in so many trucking companies over the years turning Pilot FJ into a Billion dollar company and that’s a fact. It always was Jimmy then MArk is his right hand man being 2nd in command. Again, indicting Hazelwood is like catching the big fish……sure Jimmy is the biggest fish but Hazelwood is huge. Trust me when I say Jimmy Haslam will not be indicted. Just wait and let it play out and you will see no charges filed against Haslam. And to back this up even more, ask any corporate attorney about this and see what they say: There’s no way Pilot FJ and its board would have taken responsibility for the scandal, implemented all the new corporate policies, fired all those employees AND (here’s the biggest reason) paid the gov’t $92MM in fines WITHOUT AN IRONCLAD THAT JIMMY HASLAM WOULD NOT BE INDICTED. That deal would have never happened without the feds agreeing to not to indict him. That is a fact whether you believe it or not.