"Whoppers" in Hazelwood's trial, former President of Flying Pilot J
"Clueless" on the one hand. "Genius" on the other. That is how Mark Hazelwood, former President of Pilot Flying J, was described by Andy Drumheller, his criminal defense attorney.
Hazelwood is on trial for witness tampering, fraud, and conspiracy. Routinely, he would ask his secretary for Pilot's trip reports. If asked, it is alleged, she was to lie to investigators. Tell them he "never read them."
Drumheller admitted his client received 8,000 sales, trip, and rebate reports. However, no one can prove his client "actually read them". Hazelwood, therefore, was "clueless" about Pilot's rebate scam.
One of the main reasons for Pilot's rapid growth and success was Hazelwood's skills at managing the business, said Drumheller. “I dare say he was a great match" for the truck stop business. He said his client worked his way up in this company and made "a bunch of money" doing it. "He earned it." In other words, Drumheller called his client, a "genius".
Hazelwood earned $30 million a year working for Pilot.
Hazelwood was the only key executive, besides the Haslams, whose bonus and commission levels were uncapped. Who then had the most to gain by Pilot's rebate scam? Who was paid the most money by Pilot?
Hazelwood received three promotions at Pilot. He was named President in 2012, head of Direct Sales in 2004, and Executive V.P. in 1998. Each time, it was Jimmy Haslam who promoted him.
The rebate scam was concocked in 2008. The raid was April 15, 2013. That's five years or 1835 days. That comes to four reports a day. How long are the reports? One, two, three pages each? How long does it take to read one report? One minute? Five minutes? Or more? Is reading four reports a day reasonable for an executive whose job it is to read sales, rebate, and trip reports?
On the day Pilot was raided by 200 FBI, IRS, and local law enforcement agents, where was Hazelwood? On his way to the airport.
“At that moment, Mr. Hazelwood had a choice,” Drumheller said. “He could go to the airport", or head back "into the unknown of the headache and stress of a federal investigation." His client chose to go "into the storm" because it was "important to Pilot’s customers.”
Or does running from the FBI make one look guilty? Or did his attorney advise him that fleeing from federal officers is a crime?
If the saying, "He who laughs last, laughs best", is true, who gets the last laugh in this case? The attorneys? Laughing all the way to the bank. Laughing at the clients who pay their bills. Laughing at the legal system that gets them paid. Using the excuse:
"We have to defend them."
So far, ten of Pilot's key executives have plead guilty to a variety of criminal charges. Some are facing up to 20 years in prison.
Pilot has paid $271 million in fines, restitution, interest, and audit costs. Pilot admitted that it stole money from its customers through false rebates. Also, the company admitted to concealing the theft by "cooking the books" by keeping and sending false spreadsheets to 5500 customers.
Haslam is innocent and has been accused of no wrongdoing. He is facing no charges in Hazelwood's criminal trial started this week in the U.S. Federal District Court of Eastern Tennessee, Chattanooga.
The trial begins again on Jan. 10th.