US District Judge Curtis Collier ordered the fraud trial of several Pilot Flying J ex-employees be delayed one week from October 31 to November 6, the Knowville News Sentinel reported Tuesday:
A federal judge is delaying for a week the upcoming trial of the four former Pilot Flying J employees charged in a scam to defraud unsophisticated trucking firms.
U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier on Tuesday ordered the trial of former Pilot Flying J president Mark Hazelwood and three others delayed from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, according to an entry in the federal court system’s database. The trial will be held in Chattanooga, where Collier is based.
Unusually, the cause for the delay was not made available in the public record.
The entry revealing the trial delay is labeled as a “notice of hearing,” but no such hearing notice appeared on the publicly available docket. The entry does not indicate that a hearing was held, only that the trial date was being changed. There is no request for a delay filed in the public database nor is there an order explaining the delay.
However, the Knoxville News Sentinel noted that the judge mentioned his wife was having health issues that could impact the trail’s timeline, depending on her recovery from a medical procedure.
Former Pilot Flying J president Scott Hazelwood faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and witness tampering. Standing trial with him are Pilot’s former vice president for national sales, Scott Wombold, and former regional sales representatives Karen Mann and Heather Jones.
The FBI raided Pilot’s headquarters on Lonas Drive in Knoxville in April 2013, years after launching a probe and using a Pilot insider – Texas salesman Vincent Greco – to garner secret recordings of sales meetings and training sessions at which the scheme was detailed. Hazelwood’s voice is captured on some of those recordings. Greco was granted immunity.
Despite the scheme involving as many as twenty employees, knowledge of the the wide-reaching plot has been consistently denied by Pilot Flying J owner, Jimmy Haslam.
Fourteen of their fellow co-workers in the diesel sales division overseen by Hazelwood have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify if needed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trey Hamilton and David Lewen.
Pilot Flying J Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam, who also owns the Cleveland Browns football team, has denied knowledge of the scheme and is not charged. The board of directors of the Haslam family firm confessed guilt via a criminal enforcement agreement in which the firm agreed to pay $92 million and cooperate with the FBI.