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Trial Work for Former Pilot Flying J Execs Set for Early 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The trial for the eight former Pilot Flying J employees is slated for October but preparations could begin as early as January. The defendants face allegations of fraud related to the company's fuel rebate program.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, hundreds of residents of the U.S. District of Eastern Tennessee could receive questionnaires after the new year. 

Citing news coverage in the area, lawyers for the former employees awaiting trial want the case heard by a jury from outside East Tennessee. U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar wants to poll part of the pool to find out, using a questionnaire that asks what recipients have heard about the case and about any opinions they've formed, the news outlet reported.

The judge and lawyers spent part of Thursday working out language for the questionnaire, which the judge said he hopes to have sent out after the first of the year, it added.

As CSNews Online previously reported, eight former 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; account representative Heather Jones; 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.

CEO Jimmy Haslam, who does not face criminal charges, has denied knowledge of the rebate scheme. Haslam was recently deposed in a civil case brought 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 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, CSNews Online previously reported.

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

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