Morning Headlines: Former Flying J Execs Convicted of Fraud; Dayton to Open Funk Museum

Feb 16, 2018

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, Feb. 16:

  • Three former Pilot Flying J executives charged in billing fraud scheme;
  • LyondelBasell Industries inks deal to acquire Fairlawn polymer company;
  • Two accused of using stolen prescription pads to get drugs;
  • Research firm to study high-tech transit link between Cleveland and Chicago;
  • ACLU sues to block Down syndrome abortion ban;
  • Former Cleveland councilman is the subject of a voter fraud investigation;
  • PharmaCann back in the running for marijuana growing license;
  • Cleveland and Canton's joint bid for the NFL draft makes the list of finalists;
  • Perry Nuclear plant supporters to hold weekend rally;
  • U.S. Senate hopeful Gibbons earns endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul;
  • Settlement reached after deadly Ohio State Fair accident;
  • Dayton's funk museum to host grand opening;

Three former Pilot Flying J executives charged in billing fraud scheme
A jury has convicted three former top officials of Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot Flying J truck stop company of fraud and other charges. They were involved in a billing scheme that cheated small trucking companies of diesel fuel discounts. Convicted were former President Mark Hazelwood, Vice President Scott Wombold and former account representative Heather Jones. The executives were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy charges. The company itself entered into a Criminal Enforcement Agreement in 2014  and agreed to pay $56 million in restitution and another  $92 million penalty.  No charges were filed against Haslam, the owner of the Cleveland Browns.

LyondelBasell Industries inks deal to acquire Fairlawn polymer company
A New Jersey-based plastics and refining company is buying Fairlawn polymer company A. Schulman for $2.25 billion. LyondellBasell Industries is paying $42 a share. The Beacon Journal reports Schulman Chief Executive Officer Joseph Gingo acknowledges there will be job and plant consolidations, but he expects LyondellBasell to invest in Schulman.  A. Schulman makes plastic compounds, composites and powders. It's been facing financial problems since it paid $800 million for Citadel Plastic Holdings. Schulman has sued, saying it was a victim of fraud in that deal.

Two accused of using stolen prescription pads to get drugs
A Hartville man and an Akron woman are accused of stealing prescription pads from a medical office to get thousands of Oxycodone pills, amphetamine salts and other drugs. Dennie Rowland, 46, and Candi Webb, 34, are facing federal charges of conspiracy with intent to distribute controlled substances. Prosecutors says they wrote the prescriptions in the names of friends, relatives and other acquaintances without their knowledge. Another Akron man, Richard Overdorf, is accused of helping them fill the prescriptions at pharmacies in Akon, North Canton and elsewhere. Rowland and Webb were employees at the medical office.

Research firm to study high-tech transit link between Cleveland and Chicago
A high-tech transportation research firm plans to study the possibility of connecting Cleveland and Chicago. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has signed agreements for a feasibility study of a high-speed capsule that could connect the two cities in 28 minutes. Cleveland.com reports the agreements among Hyperloop, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and the Illinois Department of Transportation will employ an independent engineering firm to study the feasibility of the Cleveland-Chicago route. The study could take up to a year, and will include a look at right of ways along northern Ohio interstates as well as Amtrak rail lines, costs and ridership. More details are expected at a meeting on Feb. 26.

ACLU sues to block Down syndrome abortion ban
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is suing to block Ohio’s new ban on abortions once a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The ACLU says the law that is to take effect next month is unconstitutional, and has gone to court asking for a temporary restraining order. Anti-abortion advocates say the law protects people with disabilities. The ACLU says it’s a veiled attempt to further criminalize abortion in Ohio.

Former Cleveland councilman is the subject of a voter fraud investigation
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has ordered an investigation into whether former Cleveland Councilman T. J. Dow committed voter fraud last year. Dow, who is now running for the Ohio House of Representatives, told the board yesterday that he voted at his old polling place after he moved to a new residence in the 10th House District. Cleveland.com reports Dow could have voted provisionally but told the board he didn’t feel comfortable doing that. An Ashtabula councilman was charged with two 5th-degree felonies this week after he was accused of using a phony address in his campaign.

PharmaCann back in the running for marijuana growing license
The Ohio Department of Commerce has added a company to its list to get one of the state’s coveted medical marijuana grow licenses. The department says an employee’s "inadvertent error" had lowered PharmaCann Ohio’s score. The department's rules restrict the number of cultivator licenses to 24 until after the program starts up on Sept. 8. But the commerce department says none of the companies who were on the original list will lose their approval in order to add PharmaCann.

Cleveland and Canton's joint bid for the NFL draft makes the list of finalists
The combined bid of Cleveland and Canton to host the NFL draft has made the list of finalists for 2019 or 2020. Also on the list are Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas and Nashville. Representatives for each site will make their pitches before the NFL spring meetings in May in Atlanta. Traditionally, the draft has been in New York, but it has more recently been staged in different cities. The Northeast Ohio bid emphasizes the 100th anniversary of the founding of the NFL in Canton.

Perry Nuclear plant supporters to hold weekend rally
Supporters of the Perry Nuclear plant are planning to rally Saturday. The plant is in danger of being shut down amid competition from cheap natural gas. School and county leaders say the closure of the FirstEnergy plant would cost the Lake Erie community millions of dollars in tax money. Akron-based FirstEnergy says it needs a financial rescue from the state is needed to keep the Perry plant and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Sandusky operating. The company says the plants can't compete with cheaper natural gas and that it could be forced to sell or close the nuclear plants.

U.S. Senate hopeful Gibbons earns endorsement of Sen. Rand Paul
Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons has landed the endorsement of Republican Sen. Rand Paul in his bid for U.S. Senate. The second-term senator from Kentucky on Thursday called Gibbons a fiscal and constitutional conservative who can be trusted to "stand up and fight for smaller government and less government overreach into our lives."  The nod from Paul comes as Gibbons faces U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who has the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party and Sen. Rob Portman. Incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Settlement reached after deadly Ohio State Fair accident
A tentative settlement has been reached in last year’s fatal ride accident at the Ohio State Fair. The Ohio Expositions Commission voted Thursday to approve a confidential settlement. Tyler Jarrell, 18, was killed when the Fire Ball ride broke apart as it was swinging with a full load of passengers on the fair's opening day. Seven others were injured.

Dayton's funk museum to host grand opening
A museum in Ohio dedicated to the funk music genre is hosting its grand opening on Friday. Plans for a funk museum in Dayton have been public since 2013, but the head of the new Funk Music Hall of Fame and Exhibition Center says it has been a dream for decades. CEO David Webb tells the Dayton Daily News he hopes that the museum becomes not just a tourist attraction for the city, but a place to educate people about its past stars.