Ex-PFJ exec Hazelwood requests release from house arrest

October 22, 2020

Greg Grisolano

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Last week a federal appeals court overturned former Pilot President Mark Hazelwood’s convictions for an elaborate fraud scheme, saying a lower court erred in allowing jurors to hear secret recordings of the company’s then-president using racist and misogynistic language at a corporate retreat.

In a 2-1 ruling, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also overturned the convictions of former Pilot Vice President Scott Wombold and regional sales representative Heather Jones and remanded them for a new trial. The appeal was launched by an attorney for Hazelwood, who argued that offensive language on secretly recorded tapes prejudiced the jury against the defendants.

A federal judge sentenced Hazelwood to 12 years in prison and fined him $750,000 after he was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in connection with Pilot Flying J’s fuel rebate scheme.

Eighteen Pilot employees were charged in connection with the conspiracy, which involved fraudulent and false pretenses, and promises and representations made to the targeted trucking companies, including fraudulently generated invoices and rebate amounts.

In the motion, Hazelwood’s attorneys note that he has been on pretrial release for nearly five years. Since the jury verdict, he has been “largely constrained to his home for a total of 974 days.”

“Mr. Hazelwood’s conviction has now been vacated, and he is again presumed innocent,” the motion states. “Accordingly, the bail conditions that were initially imposed upon Mr. Hazelwood in February 2016 (and with which he was entirely compliant) are appropriate again now.”

The conspiracy came to light in 2013 following a raid on the company’s Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters by the FBI and the IRS. Pilot Flying J’s board confessed to criminal responsibility and paid a $92 million penalty. The nation’s largest truck stop chain paid an additional $85 million to settle various lawsuits filed by customers.

Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam repeatedly denied any knowledge of the activities and was not charged in connection with the conspiracy. LL

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.