published Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

2 plead guilty in federal probe of Haslam family truck stop chain

Pilot Oil and Flying J Headquarters in Knoxville.
Pilot Oil and Flying J Headquarters in Knoxville.
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Two employees of the truck stop chain owned by the family of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam have pleaded guilty in a federal probe of the company’s business practices.

Regional sales director Arnold Ralenkotter pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn. Regional accounts representative Ashley Smith Judd also pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

They are the first to be charged in the investigation. Federal prosecutors allege members of Pilot’s sales team deliberately withheld rebates to boost Pilot profits and pad sales commissions.

Ralenkotter’s lawyer Ed Yarbrough says his client has agreed to cooperate with authorities.

The Knoxville-based chain is run by CEO Jimmy Haslam, the governor’s brother.

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