First Pilot Flying J guilty pleas entered

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 1:34pm
Updated: 1:10 p.m.

The first guilty pleas in the Pilot Flying J case have been entered.

In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, regional sales director Arnold Ralenkotter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the fraud case that has engulfed the Haslam family business.

Regional accounts representative Ashley Smith Judd also pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

Pilot Flying J is a private company owned by the Haslam family of Knoxville. Gov. Bill Haslam served as the company’s president in the 1990s before becoming mayor of Knoxville in 2002. Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam, Bill’s brother, is among those mentioned in a scheme that the government alleges enriched the company and sales staff by not providing promised fuel rebates to trucking fleets. Jimmy Haslam is also the owner of the Cleveland Browns professional football team.

In pleading guilty Ralenkotter and Judd become the first Pilot employees to admit to fraudulently obtaining money in a scheme that cost trucking companies rebate money. As part of a plea agreement reached by Ralenkotter with the government, he will not be found responsible for money illegally obtained that he did not personally authorize, that he did not employ sophisticated means in participating in the scheme, and that he is acknowledged as the first to admit guilt.

Further, he may receive a reduction in his eventual sentencing by cooperating with federal authorities investigating others charged in the scheme.

In a 120-page document filed in federal court in April, the government alleged that members of the company's sales force preyed on smaller trucking companies by reducing the amount of rebates they were owed for buying certain amounts of fuel.

FBI Special Agent Robert H. Root alleged a "conspiracy and scheme to defraud executed by various Pilot employees to deceptively withhold diesel fuel price rebates and discounts from Pilot customers ... for the dual purposes of increasing the profitability of Pilot and increasing the diesel sales commissions of the Pilot employees participating in the fraud."

At least eight trucking firms have sued Pilot over the rebate program. FBI agents raided the company's headquarters April 15.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)


5 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 5/29/13 at 3:51

It looks like the little guy is taking the fall for the big guys. (The Haslam)

By: Badbob on 5/30/13 at 6:25

Don't worry pswindle, this is just step 2.

Step 1, indict everyone
Step 2 - plea bargain the little guys in exchange for testimony
Step 3 - use the leverage on Brother Haslem to get the goods on his Gov Brother.
Step 4 - plea bargain the Brother for testimony
Step 5 - indict the Governor.
Step 5 - get testimony from the Gov to get the goods on Kiffin.
Step 5 - ruin USC and UTK football for 2 generations.

See where all this is going? It's a plot by Vanderbilt fans!

By: pswindle on 5/30/13 at 4:23

Where are the GOP remarks on this subject? They seem to have gone silent.

By: truthseeker53 on 5/31/13 at 7:56

They're taking care of business. Something Dimocrats know little of.
Is Ms. Judd of the singing Judds?

By: pswindle on 5/31/13 at 9:28

How are they taking care of business.? Trying to use their influence to sweep it under the rug. Gov. Haslam acts like a kid that is trying to find the right lie to tell. He acts as it he has no ties to the business. He is sure that is brother is innocent. This is a different Judd family.