Federal agents raided the Pilot Flying J Corporate Headquarters in Knoxville, TN on Monday the 15th of April. Agents from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) took part in the raid. When the agents arrived, they instructed everyone to turn off their computers and phones and then asked all non-essential personnel to leave the building. According to the Chattanoogan, the raiding agents were made up of 30 FBI and IRS agents wearing bulletproof vests who focused mainly on talking with IT, accounting, and customer service officers.
The raid is a result of a criminal investigation stemming from some trucking companies claiming that they weren’t paid the rebates they were owed for purchasing fuel from the truck stop chain. Despite the fact that the IRS was involved, CEO Jimmy Haslam has said that “it does not involve any tax issues.”
Documents were seized during the search of the three office buildings on the corporate campus and several company members were subpoenaed, but no arrests were made. In fact, the company released a statement saying that, to their knowledge, no company executives were targets of the investigation. This calls into question the necessity of such a strong federal reaction – Thirty armed agents in bulletproof vests storming a corporate office is something you might expect to see in the movies. Questions have been raised over whether or not the raid may have been politically motivated since not only is Jimmy Haslam the CEO of Pilot Flying J and new owner of the Cleveland Browns, but his brother, Bill Haslam, is the current Governor of Tennessee and a Pilot Flying J stockholder.
Regardless of the motivation for the raid, Haslam has maintained his company’s innocence and said that they will “cooperate appropriately with any and all external investigations and conduct our own.” He also issued a statement saying that he trusts “there has been no wrongdoing” and that the “integrity of [the company] always has been job No. 1.”
No service has been suspended at any of the Pilot Flying J travels stops or convenience stores, nor is there any indication that there will be a stoppage because of the investigation.
Pilot Flying J is one of the country’s largest private employers with over 650 travel stops and convenience stores in the US and Canada, employing more than 25,000 people. They have annual revenues of around $29 billion.