Ex-Haslam workers plead guilty to scam

Published 2:31 am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Three former employees of Pilot Flying J, the truck stop owned by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tenn. Gov. Billl Haslam, pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges involving a scheme where trucking companies were cheated out of promised fuel rebates.

The three are among 10 former Pilot Flying J employees to plead guilty since federal agents raided the company’s Knoxville headquarters last year. They have agreed to cooperate with the government for a reduced sentence.

One of the former employees who appeared in court Monday is Brian Mosher, a former director of sales from Bettendorf, Iowa, who admitted to training other company employees on how to cheat customers.

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“Brian Mosher has recognized and acknowledged a serious situation that developed at the company, and he’s doing what he can to help correct it,” said Mosher’s attorney, Chicago lawyer Steven Kowal.

Mosher faces a maximum of 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, although it’s unlikely he’d serve that amount of time.

Mosher, in his plea agreement, admitted to holding four break-out sessions during Pilot’s annual sales meeting in Knoxville in November of 2012 in which he showed employees how to defraud trucking companies without getting caught.

Pilot, the largest truck stop company in the U.S., had been giving rebates and price discounts to trucking companies as an incentive for them to continue to buy fuel from their truck stops. But records show that the rebate program was complex and discounts varied from truck stop to truck stop, so it wasn’t always easy for trucking companies to keep up with the amount of money they were due from Pilot’s program.

Mosher was secretly recorded telling colleagues to target unsophisticated trucking customers, an FBI affidavit says.

“Some of ‘em, some of ‘em don’t know what a spreadsheet is,” Mosher said of the trucking customers, according to the affidavit. “I’m not kiddin.”’

Former employees Christopher Andrews and Lexie Holden also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States government, court documents show. Each faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Andrews was a regional sales manager. Holden, court documents say, was a regional account representative for the company.

Email messages sent to attorneys representing Holden and Andrews were not immediately returned.

Company CEO Jimmy Haslam has denied involvement in the rebate scheme. Gov. Bill Haslam says he is not involved with the company’s operations. Still, the company has been forced to pay millions because of the fraud. Numerous lawsuits have been filed. In November, a federal judge in Arkansas approved a settlement that pays $84.9 million to 5,500 trucking companies that were cheated out of promised rebates by Pilot Flying J.