3 ex-staff of truck stops controlled by Haslams convicted
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Three of four former employees of truck stop chain Pilot Flying J who have been on trial since November were convicted Thursday in connection with a rebate scam.
Former company President Mark Hazelwood and former account representative Heather Jones were found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, news outlets reported.
Former company Vice President Scott “Scooter” Wombold was convicted of one count of wire fraud. But he and former account representative Karen Mann were found not guilty of conspiracy.
Pilot Flying J is controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The Haslams haven’t been charged with any wrongdoing. The governor has not been involved in the company in recent years.
The verdict followed about four days of deliberations in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, where the trial has been going on since November.
Hazelwood was also convicted of wire fraud and witness tampering and found not guilty of one count of wire fraud. Wombold was also found not guilty of two counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements to federal agents. Jones was found not guilty of four counts of wire fraud.
Wombold’s lawyer, John Kelly, said his defense team would explore options for appeal on the one count on which Wombold was found guilty.
“All along, Mr. Wombold desired only to be judged by a jury of his peers at trial,” Kelly said in a statement. “Today, having done exactly that, he stands vindicated on six of seven counts.”
Pilot Flying J issued a statement after the verdicts were announced saying it has focused on its customers.
“Nearly five years ago upon learning of the improper transactions, we made whole every customer negatively affected, entered into a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the government, cooperated fully with the government’s investigation, and made policy, procedure and staff changes to make certain nothing like this ever happens again,” the statement said.
Sentencing was set for June 27 in Chattanooga.
Fourteen former Pilot Flying J employees pleaded guilty earlier, and some testified during the trial. They are awaiting sentencing by U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier.
The jurors said in a note Wednesday they had reached a unanimous verdict on all but one charge involving one defendant. On Thursday morning, the jurors said in a note they remained deadlocked on that charge.
Collier then gave them an instruction designed to prompt jurors to re-examine their individual votes and try one more time for a unanimous decision.