Federal Jury Returns Guilty Verdicts for Former Pilot Flying J President, Vice President, and Customer Account Representative
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – On February 15, 2018, following a multi-month trial in U.S. District Court, Chattanooga, before the Honorable Curtis L. Collier, Senior U.S. District Judge, a jury returned guilty verdicts against Mark Hazelwood, 59, of Knoxville, Tennessee; Scott “Scooter” Wombold, 58, of Gallatin, Tennessee; and Heather Jones, 47, of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Hazelwood, former president of Pilot Flying J, was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud as charged in count 1 of the indictment, wire fraud as charged in count 8 of the indictment, and witness tampering as charged in count 14 of the indictment. Wombold, former vice president of Pilot Flying J, was convicted of wire fraud as charged in count 2 of the indictment. Jones, a former customer account representative for Pilot Flying J, was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud as charged in count 1 of the indictment.
Evidence presented at trial proved a scheme to defraud certain Pilot Flying J trucking company customers through false and fraudulent representations and promises of diesel fuel discounts that were intended to induce victim customers to purchase diesel fuel from Pilot Flying J rather than a competitor. The scheme resulted in victim customers being cheated out of their promised diesel fuel discounts. The evidence at trial showed that the scheme’s goals were to increase Pilot’s market share of diesel fuel sales over its competitors, maximize Pilot’s profits, and maximize the scheme-participants’ potential for profit- and commission-based compensation from trucking companies targeted through the scheme to defraud.
Before trial, 14 other former Pilot Flying J executives and employees had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to the same scheme to defraud. They are awaiting sentencing. In July 2014, Pilot Flying J entered into a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the United States in which the company agreed that some of its employees in its Direct Sales group engaged in fraudulent conduct in the payment of diesel fuel discounts for certain targeted Pilot customers. Pilot Flying J agreed that the conduct of those employees resulted in $56 million in loss to affected customers. In accordance with that agreement, Pilot Flying J agreed to pay full restitution to all victim customers in addition to paying a $92 million monetary penalty. Additionally, according to the terms of the Criminal Enforcement Agreement, this federal investigation not only resulted in the payment of full restitution to the scheme’s victims, but also created protection for trucking companies going forward through greater transparency in their future fuel pricing arrangements with Pilot Flying J.
Sentencing has been set for June 27, 2018, in U.S. District Court, Chattanooga. Hazelwood, Wombold, and Jones each face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison for their convictions.
Law enforcement agencies participating in this joint investigation included the FBI and IRS- Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys F.M. (Trey) Hamilton III and David P. Lewen, Jr. represented the United States at trial.