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Former Pilot Flying J Execs Want to Move Trial

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Former Pilot Flying J executives are seeking a change of venue for their upcoming trial on charges related to allegations of fraud in the company's fuel rebate program.

The allegations date back to an April 2013 raid on Pilot Flying J's company headquarters in Knoxville. A trial in the case is set for October 2017.

In a filing Thursday, attorneys for Mark Hazelwood, former president; Scott Wombold and John Freeman; former vice presidents; and other ex-employees asked a federal judge for permission to file a lengthy request to change the location of their trial, according to The Tennessean.

Requests to change trial locations are typically made when defendants believe jurors have been overly exposed to details of the case. The filing said "pretrial publicity in this case has been extensive," noting there have been "hundreds of pretrial newspaper and television media reports" about the case, the report added.

The company has already paid more than $170 million in settlements, fees and fines in connection with allegations top executives orchestrated a scheme where rebates were offered but never paid to Pilot customers, the news outlet explained.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty in the case. An additional 10 employees have pleaded guilty to mail fraud and wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

CEO Jimmy Haslam has denied any knowledge of the rebate scheme. He is not referenced in any of the filings in this case.

Pilot Flying J already reached an $85-million civil settlement with dozens of trucking companies. The retailer also agreed to cooperate with the ongoing criminal investigation and pay a $92-million penalty.

Locally based Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 travel stops in North America.

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