Former Pilot Flying J Workers Plead Guilty Ahead of Fraud Trial
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With roughly three months before their trial was set to begin, four former Pilot Flying J executives have agreed to plead guilty in connection with fraud in the company's rebate fuel program.
John Stick Freeman, John Spiewak, Vicki Borden and Katy Bibee all signed plea agreements, which were filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, according to WSMV.com.
Freeman is former vice president of sales; Spiewak, regional sales manager in Ohio; Borden, director of wholesale and inside sales; and Bibee, account representative.
According to the news out, documents show Freeman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The trial for the four other former executives is slated to begin Oct. 31 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The defendants are former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood; Scott Wombold, vice president of national accounts; Heather Jones, account executive; and Karen Mann, regional account representative.
A spokesperson from Pilot Flying J has released the following statement:
"We are saddened by news of the pleas of four people who worked for Pilot Flying J acknowledging that they participated in defrauding some of our diesel fuel customers. After learning of such improper activities more than four years ago, we made whole every customer negatively affected; entered into a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the government, which included a $92-million penalty; continued to cooperate with the investigation; and made policy, procedure and staff changes to make certain nothing like this happens again.
"It is Pilot Flying J's commitment to be a great partner to trucking companies across North America, always focusing our undivided attention on the best interests of our customers, team members and business," the company added.
The plea deals come more than four years after federal officials — including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service — raided Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters in April 2013. The raid was a culmination of a probe into allegations of fraud in Pilot Flying J's fuel rebate program, as CSNews Online previously reported.
In June, the eight defendants asked a federal judge to extend the deadline for plea agreements to July 21. The motion was unopposed by prosecutors.
Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 travel centers in the United States and Canada.