Indicted Pilot Flying J Execs Considering Plea Deals
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Some former Pilot Flying J executives could see their criminal cases end in a plea deal this summer, three months before the start of their October trial.
Citing court documents filed on behalf of eight defendants, Land Line reported that the former executives have asked a federal judge to extend the deadline for plea agreements to July 21. The motion is unopposed by prosecutors.
The eight defendants are Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood; Scott Wombold, vice president of national accounts; John Freeman, former vice president of sales; account representative Katy Bibee; account representative Heather Jones; Vicki Borden, director of wholesale and inside sales; Karen Mann, regional account representative; and John Spiewak, regional sales manager in Ohio.
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.
The motion argues that the defendants need more time to review documents that the prosecutors intend to introduce during trials. Without an extension, the defendants would have until June 23 to make a decision on plea agreements.
In related trial news, earlier this month U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Tennessee recommended against throwing out statements made by Wombold and Jones to federal agents when they raided the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J in 2013.
According to Land Line, Guyton said in a 49-page filing that since neither defendant was in custody when they gave their statements, Miranda warnings were not required. Attorneys for Wombold and Jones had argued that their clients weren’t informed of their Miranda right to remain silent as agents questioned them at the company's offices during the raid.
The April 2013 raid was the culmination of a probe into allegations of fraud in Pilot Flying J's fuel rebate program.
The criminal case against the former employees was transferred on May 26 to District Judge Curtis Collier after the previous judge, Amul Thapar of Kentucky, was confirmed in his appointment to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The trial is set for October.
Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 travel centers in North America.