New Judge assigned to criminal trial of former Pilot Flying J President, others
The criminal case of four Pilot Flying J executives, including its former president, has been reassigned. Judge Curtis Collier, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1995, replaced Judge Amul Roger Thapar, the original trial judge.
Judge Collier has been on Senior Status since Oct. 2014. This means he is considered "semi-retired", with an 80 per cent reduction in his caseload. This status created another opening in the court. It was filled by Judge Thapar.
Judge Thapar is now on the U.S. Federal District Court of Appeals, Sixth District in Cincinnati, Ohio. Judge Thapar is on the list of names from which President Donald J. Trump said he would draw the nominee to replace vacancies of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The trial begins Nov. 6th at 9 a.m. in the U.S. Federal District Court of Eastern Tennessee, in Chattanooga. A two-month trial is anticipated.
Four former Pilot executives are on trial. They are former President Mark Hazelwood and Scott Wombold, Pilot's former V.P. of National Sales The other two defendants are former Regional Sales Representatives Heather Jones and Karen Mann.
The four are accused of of conspiracy, fraud, and witness tampering. It is being tried at the same time, rather than being split into four separate cases.
So far, 14 former Flying Pilot J employees have plead guilty to mail and wire fraud. They are awaiting sentencing pending the outcome of the Hazelwood Four trial. The 14 who plead guilty are facing up to 20 years in prison. Some have been promised reduced jail time for snitching on the defendants at this trial.
The guilty parties admitted to mail and wire fraud by skimming money to increase their bonuses, commissions, and company profits. They also falsified customer records in email spreadsheets to conceal customer overcharges. Mail was used to send the rebate checks.
Pilot has agreed to pay back all the money with interest to customers who lost money in the scam. So far, $80 million has been repaid. Only a handful of companies are waiting for their checks. The payments have been delayed pending other court actions.
Pilot Flying J has also paid a $92 million fine to the U.S. Treasury.
Judge Curtis Collier, U.S. District Court of Eastern Tennessee, Chattanooga
Judge Amul Thapar, U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth District, Cincinnatti