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: Loner on 6/3/13 at 6:43

Hey, when somebody conspires to rip-off America's truckers, they should pay the price for their actions....the Haslams are thieves...rich, powerful and arrogant thieves...but thieves nonetheless....they deserve to be publicly humiliated....my tune could be just what the doctor ordered....the Haslams need to be shamed....then incarcerated....If the poor bastard who holds up a liquor store gets ten years, then the Haslams ought to get at least that.....they stole millions.....and laughed about the stupidity of their victims.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 6:44

That works for me.

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 8:03

accusation without knowledge is ignorance, Loner, and I've never thought of you as being ignorant. Have I been wrong?

The Haslams might be crooks. The governor might be a crook in the family; but let's wait on evidence [called proof] before we accuse the Haslams of being crooks. Especially our governor. A crook in our Capital makes our state look bad worse than crooked governors in other states.

By: Loner on 6/3/13 at 8:21

Don't be a sucker, Yogi.

According to reports, the FBI compiled 187 pages of evidential material...and now employees are striking plea deals....there is guilt; the question is, how far up the ladder did the scam go?

Billy and Jimmy Haslam can claim ignorance and incompetence on their parts....the alternative is that they were in on the scam from the beginning....they probably hatched the idea themselves and coerced their underlings to implement the fraudulent scheme.

Billy Haslam took the oath of office, but refused to put his Pilot-Flying-J holdings into a blind trust, that should have been a red flag for the citizens of Tennessee....the Governor did not want any outside financial experts examining the Pilot-Flying-J books....he insisted on secrecy....now we know why.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 8:31

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 9:03
accusation (sic) without knowledge is ignorance, Loner, and I've never thought of you as being ignorant. Have I been wrong?

For someone who constantly makes ignorant accusation with any knowledge, yogi make a full of himself daily.

BTW yogi you are still stupid.

By: brrrrk on 6/3/13 at 8:58

Mike Burch said

"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."

"WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The average I.Q. of a member of the House of Representatives is expected to rise sharply in 2015, experts said today.

The experts, who indicated that they were “cautiously optimistic” about the development, said that the gains were most likely to be made in the Midwest.

The expected rise in I.Q. could mean that the average congressperson would have a greater grasp of basic concepts in math and science, including the law of evolution, as well as addition and subtraction.

The last time a branch of the federal government experienced such a significant increase in average I.Q., experts said, was the executive branch in 2009."

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 9:06

Evidential material is one thing, Loner; only offered by someone. It isn't proof.

There was 'evidential material' Barack Obama wasn't eligible for the Oval Office, Loner, but it apparently wasn't accepted as proof even though the 'refusers' offered no evidence the accusers were wrong.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 9:17

yogi you are still stupid.

By: brrrrk on 6/3/13 at 10:00

Courageous Senators Stand Up to American People
By Andy Borowitz,

In the halls of the United States Senate, dozens of Senators congratulated themselves today for having what one of them called "the courage and grit to stand up to the overwhelming wishes of the American people."

"We kept hearing, again and again, that ninety per cent of the American people wanted us to vote a certain way," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). "Well, at the end of the day, we decided that we weren't going to cave in to that kind of special-interest group."

"It was a gut check, for sure, but we had to draw a line in the sand," agreed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S. Carolina). "If we had voted the way the American people wanted us to, it would have sent the message that we're here in Washington to be nothing more than their elected representatives."

Calling yesterday's Senate action "a bipartisan effort," Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) said, "This proves that on a matter that affects the safety of every man, woman, and child in the nation, we can reach across the aisle to defy the interests of all of them."

Senator McConnell agreed that yesterday's vote "sent a powerful message," adding, "If the American people think that just because they voted us into office and pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions, we are somehow obliged to listen to them, they are sorely mistaken."

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 10:31

That was written as a satire, brrrrk, although I can easily take it as correct with the way congress is going in office today.

By: Rocket99 on 6/3/13 at 11:16

If the Gov is guilty, he needs to go down big time.

Think we need special investigators going over all the no bid contracts the Gov is making hapen within state government. The reality is, he's actually costing the tax payers more mone just to help his rich buddies get richer. Sounds rather unethical to me.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 12:27

yogi you are still stupid.

By: yogiman on 6/3/13 at 4:46

Thank you, dumba$$. I'll take that as a compliment knowing you're so ignorant you don't know the meaning of the word.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 5:10

Your are still stupid, yogi.

By: Captain Nemo on 6/3/13 at 5:11

Roy was stupid too, so I suppose the idiot son has to be even more stupid.