The truck-stop chain owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will have to pay $92 million in fines, in an agreement reached with prosecutors in Tennessee.

The fines against Pilot Flying J cover cheating customers out of promised rebates and discounts.

Though U.S. Attorney Bill Killian says in a release that Pilot Flying J accepted responsibility for criminal conduct by employees, that doesn't end the investigation.

The agreement doesn't protect any individual at the company from prosecution, and requires Pilot Flying J to cooperate with the ongoing investigation of both current and former employees.

Haslam has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the scheme.

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(United States Attorney's Office Eastern Tennessee, news release) Pilot Travel Centers LLC, d/b/a Pilot Flying J (Pilot), has entered into a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the United States for the purpose of resolving the company's criminal liability for its employees' fraudulent conduct in deceptively withholding diesel fuel price discounts from hundreds of customers.

As stated in the attached agreement, Pilot has accepted legal responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees, which caused more than $56 million in loss to its customers, and agreed to pay full restitution to every victim of the fraud. Pilot further acknowledged the gravity of its employees' criminal wrongdoing by agreeing to pay the United States a $92 million monetary penalty – an amount within the fine range recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The agreement also expressly states that it provides no protection from prosecution to any individual, and moreover, imposes a continuing obligation on Pilot to provide complete cooperation with the ongoing federal investigation of current and former Pilot employees relating to fraudulent conduct involving the sale of diesel fuel. Pilot must also periodically report to the United States what it has done to ensure that a system of internal accounting controls and other compliance procedures have been established to prevent fraudulent conduct from occurring again in the sale of diesel fuel. In the event Pilot materially breaches its obligations under the agreement, Pilot has agreed that the United States may file the criminal information, attached to the agreement, and will not contest the allegations in that charging document.

"The terms of this agreement, including the significant monetary penalty and the very serious consequences if Pilot fails to comply, demonstrate quite clearly that no corporation, no matter how big, influential, or wealthy, is above the law," said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian. "In addition, the company's agreement to fully cooperate with the United States, including its obligation to identify its employees' criminal conduct, will assist the ongoing federal investigation. The agreement ensures that Pilot's extensive remediation efforts will continue until all trucking company victims have received full restitution and until Pilot has demonstrated to the United States that it has implemented sufficient internal controls to prevent this kind of fraudulent conduct from ever occurring again," continued Killian.

Following a lengthy joint-investigation by the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation into allegations of fraudulent conduct at Pilot, on April 15, 2013, search warrants were executed at multiple locations, including Pilot's headquarters in Knoxville. Since that time, 10 Pilot employees, including those with supervisory responsibilities, agreed to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation and entered guilty pleas to mail and wire fraud charges arising from their involvement in the fraudulent reduction of diesel fuel price discounts owed to Pilot customers.

In the agreement, Pilot confirmed that fraudulent conduct involving diesel fuel price discounts was prevalent within its Direct Sales group and carried out with the knowledge and participation of employees responsible for the operation and oversight of Direct Sales. Pilot further confirmed that supervisory employees encouraged participation in discount fraud for the company's benefit. For example, during a November 19 and 20, 2012, annual sales training meeting at Pilot's headquarters in Knoxville, a Pilot supervisor encouraged and taught Direct Sales employees how to deceptively reduce the rebates paid to some customers for the purpose of making targeted accounts more profitable for the company.

Pilot also confirmed that the discount fraud was executed generally in one of two ways: either by fraudulently reducing the amount of monthly rebate amounts to targeted customers or by deceptively reducing the off-invoice discounts of targeted customers. Pilot acknowledged that its employees emailed spreadsheets among each other that documented their fraudulent reductions, and that in some cases, its employees fabricated "back up" documentation sent to customers to justify fraudulently reduced rebate or discount amounts.

Additionally, Pilot confirmed that in February 2013 certain Pilot employees involved with Direct Sales expressed an intent to expand the scheme to defraud by having Direct Sales personnel identify and target Pilot's off-invoice customers that were considered to be too unsophisticated to carefully monitor diesel pricing data in conjunction with their periodically received fuel invoices. As set forth in the agreement, certain Pilot employees involved with the operation and oversight of Direct Sales referred to this new aspect of the fraud as "cost plus B plan" – named after having two tiers of cost pricing for different types of customers: tier "A" and tier "B." Pilot further acknowledged that certain employees involved with the operation and oversight of Direct Sales planned not to inform the targeted unsophisticated customers of their placement in the higher-priced tier, and these employees occasionally referred to these targeted customers as "Customer Bs."

Published in Local

A memorial service has been held for Taylor Robinson, the 19 year-old who went missing from her home health care job, and whose remains were discovered earlier this month in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Hundreds of family members, friends and supporters attended the service Saturday afternoon at Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Akron's near West Side.

Many of those people were wearing purple, Taylor's favorite color.

Rev. Melvin Brown is Taylor's cousin, and said she had a positive attitude that lasted even when things weren't going well for her.

"Taylor always brought laughter, happiness to everybody that she was around," Rev. Brown, of Campbell's Gospel Temple Baptist Church, told reporters after Saturday's service. "It's just her resilient smile, even in the midst of going through things...even as a young person, she went through things also."

Rev. Brown says his cousin would always say "you know, it's not that bad", and "she'd always have a smile for everybody." He says he wants to make sure people know that Taylor was "a very loving individual...she loved people, and she loved sharing."

Akron Police and the FBI are trying to find out what happened to Taylor Robinson.

They're getting help from two private investigators, Tim Dimoff of SACS Consulting, and Thomas Fields of Accurate Investigations, who have added their own money to make the reward for information leading to an arrest in the case a total of $7,000.

Dimoff and Fields say they've narrowed down the number of people possibly involved in Taylor's death to two.

Dimoff says he believes Taylor's death was an accident involving someone she knew well.

"I believe they started out in a very good conversation, casual conversation," Dimoff told reporters on Saturday. "I think that conversation got out of hand, it got physical, and I believe still that she was killed accidentally, at that location, and I think she was moved."

Dimoff says thus, he believes there is likely at least one other person involved.

"As a person that maybe committed the crime, needed help to move the body," Dimoff says. "I find it very hard to take a body in a car, out of a car, up a trail, off the side of the trail, and dump it in the woods by yourself."

Investigator Fields says anyone who helped move Taylor's body needs to talk now.

"We're coming for you, we have very good leads," Fields says. "Now is the time for that person or persons who assisted in moving Taylor's body to come forward."

Dimoff and Fields stressed that the information comes from their own investigation, and they're helping law enforcement with what could potentially be important information to help the probe.

Police and FBI investigators have not released information about the progress of their investigation.

Published in Local

The Portage County Drug Task Force along with Portage County Sheriff's deputies, the IRS Akron, and DEA agents are conducting an investigation at three car dealerships in Ravenna.

NewsChannel 5 reports authorities arrived at  the three Globe Auto businesses on  State Route 59 around 9 a.m.Thursday morning to conduct an investigation into the matter.

No arrests have been made as of yet, but the IRS is handling the investigation.

More information will come as soon as it's available.
 

On the Web: www.newsnet5.com

Published in Local
Monday, 16 January 2012 10:46

Akron Police Investigate Non-Fatal Shooting

Akron police detectives are investigating a weekend shooting on McGowan Street.

A 36-year old man told police he was shot after a verbal fight with another man in the 400 block of McGown St.

The victim was taken to Akron General Medical Center to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The suspect is describe by police as a black male, 5'9'', with a thin build, who was wearing a dark shirt and blue jeans.

Published in Local
Friday, 16 December 2011 16:49

Mayor Issues Statement On Akron Shootings

Statement by Mayor Don Plusquellic - December 16, 2011

Since Sunday, December 11, 2011, there have been nine people shot in the City of Akron, resulting in six deaths.  The shootings here are not random acts of violence.  The victims appear to have been targeted for reasons still under investigation.  

I want to assure the citizens of Akron that the Akron Police Department is working tirelessly to sort through these events, capture the suspects, and solve these serious crimes.  The U.S. Marshal’s Service led Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force is working to apprehend various suspects in this investigation.  The Akron Police Department, the FBI and the Summit County Sheriff’s Department are three of numerous agencies involved in this endeavor.  All resources are being exhausted so that these homicides can be solved as quickly as possible.

I want to reassure the law-abiding citizens of Akron that they are safe, and I think it is important to repeat that these recent shootings are not random shootings of Akron citizens, but rather the victims in these cases appear to have been specifically targeted.  

I encourage Akron citizens with any information about the recent shootings to call the Akron Detective Bureau at 330-375-2490.

Published in Local
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 13:04

VIDEO Two Found Dead Inside Akron Home

UPDATED The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office has identified the two victims of the double homicide this morning. Sara Scott, 43, of 829 Mercer Avenue and Donald Golden, 63, of 151 6th Street SW in New Phladelphia. The cause of death has not been determined at this time.

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A man and woman were discovered dead at a home in Akron Tuesday morning with gunshot wounds.

The Summit County medical examiner and the Akron police department are now investigating this incident, which is deemed a homicide.

The medical examiner's office reports the two victims, who are not identified, were found inside a home at about 8 a.m. in the 800 block of Mercer Avenue.

Authorities are waiting release the names of the victims until family members are notified.

Follow AkronNewsNow.com for updates on this story as more details become available.

Published in Local

The Summit County Medical Examiner's office has positively identified a body found near the former Rolling Acres Mall Friday as a man missing since answering a Craigslist ad earlier this month.

The Medical Examiner's office says the body of 47 year-old Timothy Kern of Massillon died from gunshot wounds to the head, and the manner of death has been ruled homicide.

Kern's family says he answered a Craigslist ad about caretaking on a southeast Ohio farm.  He's been missing since November 13th.

One man was found dead and one man was seriously injured at a Noble County farm, and authorities in that southeast Ohio county found another body in a shallow grave on Friday.

The body found in a wooded area in the Rolling Acres area was also found in a shallow grave, as was the body found earlier in Noble County.

52 year-old Richard Beasley is being held on unrelated charges in Akron.  Authorities believe he posted the Craigslist ad for a non-existent farm job in Noble County.

16 year-old Brogan Rafferty, a Stow-Munroe Falls High School junior, is being held in a juvenile facility on juvenile charges of aggravated murder and complicity to aggravated murder. 

Published in Local
Monday, 24 October 2011 11:28

Deputies Investigating Canton Homicide

The Stark County Sheriff's Office is investigating a homicide in Canton.

Sheriff Timothy Swanson reports deputies responded to a shots fired call Monday morning in the 4500 block of Louisville St. NE. When they arrived, a man was found in the roadway with a possible gunshot wound.

The victim is identified as Desmond Lamont Thigpen, 21, of Canton.

The Stark County Coroner's Office is helping with the investigation.

Published in Local