Defense to focus on Haslam relationship with conspirator

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 10:50 AM
Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 10:50 AM

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam's relationship with one of the chief conspirators in a scheme to defraud customers at the truck stop chain controlled by the Haslam family is becoming a focus for the defense in the fraud trial of the company's former president.

Fourteen former executives and sales representatives at Pilot Flying J have pleaded guilty in the case, including former vice president John "Stick Freeman," whom prosecutors describe as the architect of the scheme to rip off unsuspecting customers of the country's largest truck stop chain by shorting them on the rebates they had agreed to pay.

"I think the relationship between one of the conspirators and Jimmy Haslam will be highly relevant," the Knoxville News Sentinel quoted defense attorney Rusty Hardin as saying in court on Thursday.

Hardin represents former Pilot President Mark Hazelwood, who is on trial along with a former vice president and two sales representatives.

Haslam has denied any prior knowledge about the scheme to defraud unsophisticated trucking company customers and has not been charged in the case.

Pilot agreed to an $85 million to settle lawsuits by most of the defrauded customers as well as a $92 million penalty to the government.

"Mr. Freeman was particularly close to Jimmy Haslam, wasn't he?" Hardin said in his cross-examination of Arnie Ralenkotter, a former sales director who has pleaded guilty and testified on government's behalf.

"It appeared that way," Ralenkotter responded.

Ralenkotter agreed with Hardin's suggestion that "John Freeman made it clear he wanted to be that man below Mr. Haslam."

Ralenkotter had started working at Pilot in 1997 and testified that he was a sales supervisor when the fraud scheme began in earnest in 2008. That's when Pilot executives decided to emulate discount programs offered by competitors and realized that fuel prices fluctuated so often that it "created an opportunity for us to keep some of that spread."

"We kind of slid into it," he said.

The trial continues on Monday.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel,

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Chief: Cause of Xenia house fire on Glen Kegley Drive under investigation

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 7:59 PM
Updated: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 9:54 PM

Drone video shot by Ryan Traxler with Aerial-Pixel -Xenia, Ohio shows flames shooting from a house fire on Glen Kegley Drive

UPDATE @ 9:30 p.m.: Investigators are working to determine the cause of the house fire on Glen Kegley Drive, Xenia Fire Chief Kenneth Riggsby said. 

Crews dispatched on a report of a fire on the outside of the home found that flames caused extensive damage to the attic area, the chief said. 

The two people in the home escaped without injury, he said.

The cause of Monday night's house fire on Glen Kegley Drive in Xenia is under investigation, Fire Chief Kenneth Riggsby said. (Marshall Gorby/Staff)


Crews are on the scene of a reported working structure fire in the 1100 block of Glen Kegley Drive. 

Initial reports from Xenia police and fire radio communication was that the house was being evacuated just before 7:30 p.m. 

(Courtesy/Ryan Traxler of Aerial-Pixel, Xenia)

OTHER LOCAL NEWS: Winter storm taking aim on region

The initial report also suggested that fire had reached the attic of the one-story wood frame home. 

We have a crew on the way. We will update this developing report. 

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to

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Fallen tree causes power outage in Darke County

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:53 PM

Almost 200 customers are without power because of a fallen tree in Greenville Monday night. 

A large tree fell on DP&L power lines around 6:30 p.m. on Jaysville-St Johns Road north of US-36, according to dispatchers.

>>Winter storm: Freezing rain, sleet and snow taking aim at region

The scene has been cleared but DP&L is working to restore power, according to DP&L spokesperson Mary Ann Kabel.

DP&L expects power to be restored around midnight but could change as progress is made, Kabel said.

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Winter storm: Freezing rain, sleet and snow taking aim at region

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 7:34 PM

Spring may be about to arrive, but winter will not give up without a fight. A Winter Weather Advisory will go into effect for all of the Miami Valley at 8pm Tuesday and continue through much of Wednesday. A wintry mix Tuesday will change to snow by evening and increase in coverage and intensity Tuesday night. Snowfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches will be likely, with isolated higher amounts.

Spring will officially arrive at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, but someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. A winter storm is taking aim on the Miami Valley and will bring a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow to the region over the next 48 hours. 

RELATED: Winter Weather Advisory in effect 

Precipitation is expected to develop early Tuesday morning across the far southern Miami Valley and spread northward toward I-70 by daybreak. Much of the precipitation will fall as rain, but as temperatures drop toward daybreak, a band of freezing rain is possible.

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The morning commute may not be too bad, Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell said. 

"The last few days of mild temperatures has helped push road surface temperatures will above freezing. That means that main roads should just be wet early Tuesday," he said. "However, elevated surfaces like cars, bridges and decks could become slippery."

SEE: WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

But the wintry weather won't be over yet. 

A Winter Weather Advisory will go into effect as of 8 p.m. Tuesday and continue until 8 p.m. Wednesday. A break in the precipitation is expected midday Tuesday before returning in the evening. As temperatures drop after sunset, snow will become the primary form of precipitation and it will increase in coverage and intensity Tuesday night, Elwell.

"Snowfall amounts will generally range from 2 to 4 inches by mid-morning Wednesday," Elwell said. "But isolated higher amounts are possible.

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This is something we'll have to watch closely as new model data comes in." 

Motorists should prepare for a slow morning commute Wednesday with improving conditions in the afternoon, he said.

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Family wants answers after finding damaged gravesite in St. Paris

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 7:08 PM

St. Paris family looking for answers after gravesite destroyed

The family of a Korean War veteran from the village of St. Paris is demanding answers after finding his grave — and several others — damaged following a recent burial.

Elsie Windle, a resident of the village, said she had recently come to the Evergreen Cemetery to decorate the gravestone of her husband, Pvt. 1st Class Everett Paul Windle, for the Easter holiday. 

But when she arrived, she found dirt and tire tracks all over her husband’s grave.

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“It’s kind of sad to come out and it looks like he was buried in a field or something,” she said.

Damage also had been caused to other gravestones in the area, she said, leaving some leaning at angles and others torn out of the ground. Deep tire tracks were also left across the cemetery.

St. Paris Mayor Brenda Cook said the damage was caused when a backhoe entered the grounds to excavate a new grave site.

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“Everyone feels bad,” she said.

Cook said the ground in the cemetery was very soft due to heavy rains around the time of the excavation. She said workers set down boards to prevent the damage but the equipment went off track.



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