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Pilot Flying J CEO Answers Questions in Rebate Fraud Civil Case

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam sat down to answer questions about alleged fraud in the company's fuel rebate program. The deposition is part of a civil case brought by several trucking companies.

According to a court notice filed in Franklin County, Ohio, the deposition that was originally to be videotaped at a Knoxville law office but was moved to the conference room at the Pilot Aviation hangar at that city's airport, according to The Associated Press.

The lawsuit was filed by companies that declined to participate in an $85-million settlement between Pilot Flying J and 5,500 trucking companies in connection with allegations that the company cheated customers out of discounts and rebates.

The company also paid a $92-million federal penalty in an agreement with prosecutors in which the company accepted responsibility for the criminal actions of its employees.

As CSNews Online previously reported, eight former and current Pilot Flying J employees are scheduled to face trial on Oct. 24, 2017. For their alleged roles in the scheme, a federal grand jury indicted: former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood; Scott "Scooter" Wombold, vice president of national accounts; John "Stick" Freeman, former vice president of sales; account representative Katy Bibee; Heather Jones, account representative; Vicki Borden, director of wholesale and inside sales; Karen Mann, regional account representative; and John Spiewa, 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.

Haslam does not face criminal charges. 

"I knew nothing about the misconduct of some of our former employees,"  Haslam said in a statement following the deposition. "I wish I could discuss this entire matter freely with you today and answer your questions as I did the plaintiffs. I can't do that yet."

Haslam's attorney A. B. Culvahouse said in a statement that his client has "done everything within his power to understand what happened and to make things right by his customers.

"We think this entire exercise today was nothing more than an effort by the plaintiffs to harass the company into a windfall settlement," he said.

The scheme came to light as a result of an April 2013 raid by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service on the company's Knoxville headquarters, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 travel centers in North America.

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