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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s truck stop company facing fraud allegations from FBI

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Jimmy Haslam allegedly knew of fraud practices (USA Today Sports Images)

Jimmy Haslam officially took ownership of the Cleveland Browns last October. Six months later, the chain of truck stops, Pilot Flying J, owned by Haslam's family has allegedly engaged in fraud practices to keep money owed to customers as part of a gas rebate program, John Caniglia of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.

According to documents filed in federal court, Haslam was aware of fraud practices by the company's top sales executives, who withheld fuel rebates and discounts in an effort to boost the company's profitability, as well as their own sales commissions. The scheme went on for five-to-seven years and targeted customers who were "too unsophisticated" to catch on.

"(A confidential informant) further advised that the rebate fraud has occurred with the knowledge of Pilot's current President Mark Hazelwood and Pilot's Chief Executive Officer James A. "Jimmy" Haslam III due to the fact that the rebate fraud-related activities have been discussed during sales meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., in which Hazelwood and Haslam have been present.''

Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee were raided by agents from the FBI and IRS on Monday. On Tuesday, Haslam denied any wrongdoing and disagrees with the government's allegations.

As noted by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, Haslam returned to the CEO position at Pilot Flying J in February after an abrupt exit by his successor. If Haslam was aware of fraudulent business practices, which the government alleges, and is convicted of a crime, the NFL could step in and suspend Haslam or could force him to sell the Browns.

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