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Pilot Flying J paying $92M penalty to government, no prosecution?

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer


Jimmy Haslam became the Browns owner last year. (USATSI)

The shroud of an investigation into Pilot Flying J could be coming to a close for Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. The US Department of Justice announced Monday a criminal enforcement agreement with Pilot Flying J, whereby the company could avoid prosecution in the future.

The agreement states Pilot acknowledges and has "accepted legal responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees" and requires Pilot to pay full restitution (more than $56 million) to the people who were subject to fraud as a result of the behavior.

Additionally, Pilot will pay a $92 million monetary penalty to the United States government and has guaranteed "complete cooperation" with the federal investigation as it continues to unfold.

"We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us, continuing our efforts to rectify the damage done, regaining our customers' trust, and getting on with our business,” Haslam said in a statement released by Pilot. “We've been committed from the beginning of this to doing the right thing, and that remains our commitment."

In terms of possible discipline from the NFL, Haslam appears to be in the clear.

"There have been no allegations of any personal conduct that is in violation of NFL policy," league spokesman Greg Aiello told CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora via email.

Back in April of 2013, the FBI raided the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J. At the time, Haslam said the company had done nothing wrong.

Such a statement is, now, incorrect.

Indeed, the DOJ made sure to point out the agreement "provides no protection from prosecution to any individual," meaning Pilot isn't out of the woods completely yet.

Cooperation is very key for the government moving forward.

"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 a statement. “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."

Still, any sort of agreement that should keep Pilot's employees -- including Haslam -- from prosecution is critical.

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