Burch: Take me to your Pilot 2

Friday, May 31, 2013 at 1:34pm
By Michael R. Burch

As the saying goes, “there is no honor among thieves,” so it should come as no surprise that Pilot employees are already cutting deals with the FBI in order to save their endangered hides. When such deals are offered to underlings, it usually means the feds are seeking bigger fish to fry.

My educated guess is that the investigators are saying “Take us to your pilot (or spend up to 20 years in jail).” Unsurprisingly, the smaller, less appetizing fry are snapping up the bait being offered: reduced sentences. Two Pilot employees, Arnold Ralenkotter and Ashley Judd (not the famous actress) are pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Ralenkotter is also pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to an article in USA Today, Nashville attorney David Raybin has suggested that the plea bargains being struck so quickly — just six weeks after the FBI released details of its investigation — may indicate that Pilot and/or its top executives are the feds’ ultimate targets. If so, it seems the investigators’ crosshairs may be bringing them quickly into focus.

William H. Farmer, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, said the quick plea deals also indicate that the defendants may have been cooperating for some time and will likely be called on to testify against their colleagues (presumably their superiors).

Ed Yarbrough, Ralenkotter’s lawyer, said that his client was "very candid with federal investigators about his involvement. He knew it was wrong and indefensible, and we felt it was in his best interest to enter a guilty plea early.”

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that federal officials intend to use court documents to prove that Pilot salespeople were actually trained to defraud customers. This training seems to go at least as high as Pilot’s national sales director, Brian Mosher, because in Ralenkotter’s seven-page plea agreement, he admitted to being at an Oct. 25, 2012, sales meeting in which it was agreed that the national sales director would train Pilot employees how to implement the alleged rebate scam.

Since two Pilot employees have gone public, confessing their sins in return for leniency, we can probably expect to see similar deals emerge, since their partners in crime now know that the jig is up. With each confession, more evidence against the sharks at the top of the food chain will also emerge. Will the pilot prove to be a whale? Will Jimmy Haslam, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, be indicted? Might charges be brought against Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, if there is evidence that mail fraud was being committed on his watch, and that he was an active participant?

If charges are brought against Pilot’s acting president, Mark Hazelwood, who allegedly knew about the alleged fraud and did nothing to prevent it, then it stands to reason that Bill Haslam also knew about it, if it was going on when he was Pilot’s acting president. Well, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Hazelwood has hired not one but two big-name attorneys. As another saying goes, “the plot thickens.”

Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.

65 Comments on this post:

By: Jughead on 5/31/13 at 11:58

What a dirtball article. If it were a liberal politician, this idiot would minimize the connection.

Journalists are scum.

By: BenDover on 5/31/13 at 12:59

Burch is no journalist, though this article is unusual for him and an exception to his norm. It's actually filled with relevant facts instead of just a lot of hot-winded partisan hyperbole.

It's not up to an 'unbiased news' standard but for an opinion piece it's entirely bearable this time.

Bravo Burch.

By: Jughead on 5/31/13 at 2:44

Don't agree, Ben. He convicts the Governor without a shred of evidence against him. That's political activism.

By: pswindle on 5/31/13 at 2:54

Are you telling me that the extra millions that rolled into the Flying J, and the Haslam Brothers did not know from where it came? All of TN is not dumb and blind to what is going on. If this were a democrat the GOP would have them already sitting behind bars. All you have to do is watch our Governor, when asked a question about Pilot, he gets so nervous and just keeps saying, "my brother is innocent."

By: yogiman on 5/31/13 at 2:58

But you could bet your a$$ if this was a democrat, pswindle, your fellow democrats would never open their mouths.

Isn't it odd how one party is constantly looking for default in the other party? A crook is a crook, regardless what party they are in.

By: yogiman on 5/31/13 at 3:00

One other point, pswindle;

You can think anything you wish, but you should be prepared to prove your argument before you open your mouth and make your claim.

By: BenDover on 5/31/13 at 4:11

It's opinion... editorial, not news Jugs. Fair game.

At least he didn't spew 20 paragraphs of leftist bile like he normally does.

The Haslem clan could go down over all this.

Burch doesn't have enough balance to turn that critical eye toward the Obama administration though and he never will. Nor is he required to.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/31/13 at 5:55

The fringe nut are all a flutter now that a Republican is in trouble. The butt hole babies are just going crazy and not all of the facts are in yet.

I find there hysterical rants so amusing.

By: Blip on 5/31/13 at 8:42

Aw, don't get upset.
Putting the governor in jail is a Tennessee tradition.

By: Mike Burch on 5/31/13 at 10:28

I didn't "convict" anyone. I simply pointed out that if the acting president knew about the rebate scam, it's likely that Bill Haslam knew about it, if the the scam goes back to the time of his presidency.

If the person I was writing about was a certain black man of Kenyan descent with a Muslim-sounding name, the protesters would probably change their tunes in a heartbeat.

By: Mike Burch on 5/31/13 at 10:36


I have criticized Barack Obama for his reliance on drones, for not standing up to the pro-Israel lobby, for not getting our troops out of Afghanistan quicker, etc.

But he is obviously a tremendous upgrade on the "star" Republicans:

Bush Junior
Bishop Romney
Paul "Lyin'" Ryan
Rick "Protestants worship Satan" Santorum
Sarah "Wailin'" Palin
Michelle Bachmann
Rick "Pray for Rain" Perry
Newt Gingrich

I don't agree with Barack Obama on a number of important issues. But the stars of the lunatic fringe make him look like Einstein compared to a kindergarten dropout.

By: govskeptic on 6/1/13 at 4:39

So, the writer makes a leap of judgment, for all his followers to believe, if one knew then so did the other. That's a theory that won't stand up in court, if it comes to that,
unless Acting President Hazelwood testifies to that as a fact. This sideswipe of
the Governor as being guilty of being a brother versus participant in any scheme
is constant within the Liberal Press, and without any merit, will continue. Unfortunately.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 5:28

LOL Blip.

By: yogiman on 6/1/13 at 5:30

Your rebuff on the names you listed 'sounds' awfully political, Mike. You criticized Barry on his reliance on drones but you accept consider him as superior to Einstein? Gimme a break, Mike. Does it take his lying ability to make Barry superior to Einstein?

You're exposing your own lack of intelligence by accepting a man as your president who refuses to identify himself.

If I'm wrong, please explain how he became a natural born citizen to qualify for that office when he said he was born in Kenya with a British subject father and teenage American girl.

By: BenDover on 6/1/13 at 5:49

Your confirmation biases are tuned in so far to the left and so thoroughly affirmed Burch that you can't even see balance much less report it.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 6:23

Only the son of an idiot sheriff would think he was born in Kenya, yogi.

By: yogiman on 6/1/13 at 7:14

Are you saying Barry was lying as he claimed to have been born in Kenya for 16 years, dumba$$?

You're saying he wasn't? Then where was he born? Prove it.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 8:06

Only the son of an idiot sheriff would think he was born in Kenya.

By: yogiman on 6/1/13 at 8:33

I must be the dumbest son of the most brilliant sheriff you have ever heard about, dumba$$, because I don't think your man Barry is lying about Kenya being his birthplace. The copy of his Kenyan birth certificate has not been proven to be a fake, but the one he's shown on Hawaii has been proven a fake from the word: GO!

Tell me, I'm sure you have the answers: Why won't any hospital in Hawaii admit he was born in their building? Why can't the new governor of Hawaii (who's an old friend of Barry's grandparents) order the Health Department to provide his birth certificate?

When was the hospital given the name he claimed it to be? Why did his half-sister say he was born in the other hospital? Which one of them was lying? Why was his birth certificate number lower than the numbers of twin girls born the day after he claims to have been born?

So, tell me, dumba$$, if you trust your man Barry, what makes you think he was lying when he said he was born in Kenya?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 8:42

I think the son of a dumb-ass sheriff is the one lying.

By: pswindle on 6/1/13 at 9:05

The FBI already has proof on tape that Jimmy knew about the rebate scam. This was published at the time of the raid disclosure. Do you think that the Gov. would like to know where all of the extra money was coming from that was lining his pockets? He is part owner, remember, that was one reason that he did not publish his income tax returns. There is a lot to this on-going story line.

By: yogiman on 6/1/13 at 9:07

Just keep on proving your ignorance, dumba$$. You're pretty good at it.

I have a dumb ass question, dumba$$: If my father was a dumb-ass sheriff, why did the citizens of Sumner County elect him in office. Why did they re-elect him through his term limits?

Are you saying the people of Sumner County are a bunch of dumbass damn fools.... like you?

I must say, you're dumbass #1 in my book.

By: yogiman on 6/1/13 at 9:17

Time will tell, pswindle. Sit back and relax. Let the evidence move forward.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 9:19

The son of a dumb-ass is an is a dead end.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 9:21

Just like life has yogi.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/1/13 at 9:22

I got to go now old dumb-ass son of a dumb-ass sheriff.

By: Loner on 6/2/13 at 5:07

Another fine missive from Mike Burch....however, the reader comments quickly trailed off into to an exchange of adolescent name-calling. This negatively impacts the value of the NCP online product.

The Haslams are goin' down....their ship is taking on water and the bilge rats are abandoning the doomed ship. There is a growing panic in the listing ship's wheel-house.

Jimmy and Billy Haslam have been methodically ripping off America's truckers for several years now and the lid on the scam has been blown off...underlings to the Haslam family are refusing to act as the scapegoats; they are cutting deals with the federal prosecutors and singing like canaries.

The Haslams hired Mark Hazelwood to be the fall guy, in case the fraud came to light...but Hazelwood is not going down with the ship....he's blabbing too?

It's the family business....is the Governor of TN, Billy Haslam, guilty of fraud too? I would say that, since Billy refused to put his Pilot holdings into a blind trust, when he took the oath of office, he is now a legitimate target of this federal criminal investigation.

Did Governor Billy Haslam keep his Pilot holdings out of a blind trust relationship, because he did not want any outside financial wizards examining the Pilot-Flying-J books; because these outside experts might have discovered the fraud and blown the whistle? Could there be another reason for him to have done that...more than likely, Billy had something to hide....voters should have smelled a rat right then and there.

Southerners must really love the idea of rule by aristocratic families...the hard-core gullible rubes who post here on a regular basis are giving the Haslam family the benefit of the doubt.....I say, "Git a rope!"

By: Captain Nemo on 6/2/13 at 5:30

Yes it has gone down, Loner. Now if NCP keeps letting it happen, it will get worse.

By: Loner on 6/2/13 at 5:52

Ripping off America's truckers is not a cool thing to do...and when one of the rip-off artists is the Governor of Tennessee, whose capital city is Nashville, Music City USA, it seems like the Country & Western songwriters need to step up and deliver...let me take a stab at it.

"Slammed by the Haslams", sounds like a functional working title for the much-needed ballad.

You got slammed by the Haslams....Slammed at the pumps.
You got hosed by the Haslams.... They kicked you in the rump.

The Feds say that It's a fact. They say there's no debate.
Truckers took it in the shorts, on those phony fuel rebates.
I'm talking about those truck-stops; Pilot and the Flying-J.
Now, whistle-blowers are blowin...and here is what they say.

You got slammed by the Haslams....Slammed at the pumps.
You got hosed by the Haslams.... They kicked you in the rump.
You got ripped-off by the Haslams....an orchestrated scam.
Now the Governor of Tennessee is in one helluva jam.

When Billy Haslam took the oath, as Governor of Tennessee.
He did something quite peculiar, something you don't often see.
Said "I don't need no blind trust...you all can can just trust me."
"That's the way we do things...in the state of Tennessee."

You got slammed by the Haslams....Slammed at the pumps.
You got hosed by the Haslams.... They kicked you in the rump.

I hear it in the key of G Major....allegro tempo....any feedback on the tune?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/2/13 at 7:46

Another hit !!

By: Loner on 6/2/13 at 8:25

Thank you..thank you very much.

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 8:52


You must have learned 'songwriting' when you was delivering the mail. You know, mentally 'sing' new tunes between your stops.

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 8:55


I agree with you on the "name calling" but I suggest you note who throws the first stone and who throws the stone back.

By: bfra on 6/2/13 at 9:32

Most of the time, just telling the truth about a lying old fool that insist on posting nothing but LIES!

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 9:35

You're proving your point of ignorance, aren't you, bfra?

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 9:49


If you are, in fact, as you claim to be on 'Obama's' citizenship, tell me what you think about the information Barack Hussein Obama had printed in his book "Dreams from My Father". Was he lying all over that book?

Let's assume he was a "natural born citizen": What happened to his American citizenship when he was adopted into Indonesian citizenship? Knowing, by law, Indonesia would not accept dual-citizenship, by what law what did he claim to use to regain his American citizenship?

What form did he use to change his name from Barry Soetoro back to Barack Hussein Obama? Wouldn't it be on record? If it is, why would he refuse to identify himself with his legal name?

By: pswindle on 6/2/13 at 10:14

Perfect! I hope some singer will pick this up and run with it. Maybe, Tim McGraw.

By: pswindle on 6/2/13 at 10:15

Perfect! I hope some singer will pick this up and run with it. Maybe, Tim McGraw.

By: bfra on 6/2/13 at 10:24

Yep! Loner that is a good one. Haslam IMO is a guilty as any other member of his crooked family. But then he is a repub., to me that is expected.

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 11:28

But you don't expect a democrat to be a crook, eh, bfra? You might look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: And I a honest crook?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/2/13 at 3:43

yogi you are still stupid.

By: Loner on 6/2/13 at 4:35

Captain, Bfra, Pswindle and Yogiman.....thanks for the feedback.

Mike Burch, any comments from you would be appreciated....again, this story is just in its infancy....when it blows, it will be national, if not world news, IMO.

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 5:22

Hey, Loner,

Are you gonna buy us all a beer when your money starts coming in on that song?

By: yogiman on 6/2/13 at 5:24


You're so ignorant it's pathetic. Weren't your parents educated enough to teach you a little logic and a few manners?

By: Captain Nemo on 6/2/13 at 10:26

You are still stupid, yogi.

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 5:13

Ah yes, dumba$$, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder... and stupidity is obviously in the eyes of the ignorant. Welcome to your constant display of ignorance.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 5:52

You are still stupid, yogi.

By: Loner on 6/3/13 at 6:04

Yeah...beers on me, when that tune hits the charts.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 6:18

Champagne should be in order, but beer is good.

By: Loner on 6/3/13 at 6:34

Beer for my horses....whiskey for my men!