Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is scheduled to address the local media tonight for the first time since federal agents raided the headquarters of his family business, Pilot Flying J, on April 15 as part of an ongoing investigation into an alleged fraud scheme.
Haslam, CEO of Pilot Flying J, will serve as the featured speaker tonight during the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s 25th annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet in Westlake.
Haslam is scheduled to deliver a speech at 7:15 p.m. today and address reporters afterward. He will not take any questions. He has addressed the media at Pilot Flying J’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., several times, but has yet to discuss his status as owner of the Browns.
“He will update statements that he made previously in Knoxville regarding Pilot Flying J, and will also talk about the Browns,” the Browns said in a statement. “Due to the ongoing investigation Mr. Haslam will not be able to take any questions."
The FBI and Internal Revenue Service launched their investigation after someone offered a tip on May 4, 2011, claiming a Pilot regional sales manager revealed trucking-company customers were being cheated out of contractually set price rebates they were supposed to receive for buying certain amounts of diesel fuel. An FBI agent's unsealed affidavit accuses Haslam of knowing about the alleged scam.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said the league had no plans to ask Haslam to relinquish operational control of the Browns during the investigation. There is obviously a chance the league could change its stance as the legal process evolves. No charges have been filed in the case, and Haslam has maintained his innocence.