Pilot Sales Director Agrees Scamming Trucking Companies Was "Dumb Idea"

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A former Pilot Travel Centers sales director agreed with a defense attorney on Thursday that scamming trucking companies was "a dumb idea."

Attorney Rusty Hardin also termed the fraud "incredibly stupid" and indicated it was not consistent with experienced businessmen like Jimmy Haslam and Mark Hazelwood.

Haslam, the Pilot CEO, has not been charged and is denying knowing of any wrongdoing.

Hazelwood, who rose to Pilot president after years of leading the sales force, is facing wire and mail fraud charges in Chattanooga along with Scott Wombold, Karen Mann and Heather Jones.

Witness Brian Mosher agreed with attorney Hardin that the practice of promising certain trucking companies a set discount, then paying much less "was taking the chance of causing everything to come down."

It did come down for many of the Pilot employees, including Mosher, when the FBI raided the Knoxville headquarters on April 15, 2013.

Mosher said earlier that he was home that day at Bettendorf, Iowa, when two FBI agents knocked on his door.

He said they asked him to call Haslam, who is also the owner of the Cleveland Browns.

Mosher said when Haslam picked up on the call, he told him, "Jimmy, we've been caught."

He said Haslam said, "I understand some people are at your house," then got off the line.

It was testified Thursday that when John Compton left Pepsico to briefly become Pilot CEO that he told the sales force that "the buck stops" with Hazelwood, saying he had other things to do at the sprawling trucking company.

However, Jimmy Haslam was soon back as CEO.

The Haslams have since agreed to begin a majority transfer of Pilot to a company headed by investor Warren Buffett.

Jim Haslam, father of Jimmy, started Pilot in 1958 with a single gas station.

Mosher said employees knew the senior Haslam as "Big Jim" or "Mr. H."

Mosher said the fact that the buck stopped with Hazelwood was the way it had always been - with him being in charge of numerous facets of the operation, including finding new travel center locations. 

The defense played a video of a Hazelwood presentation to a large gathering of travel center operators in which he wore jeans and a ball cap and portrayed "Mark the Driver."

The witness was also asked about how close he once was to Hazelwood. He acknowledged that Hazelwood had come to Iowa in 2007 when he remarried to serve as his best man.

The trial will not resume until next Wednesday morning.

Judge Curtis Collier is presiding. He also will be sentencing all those who plead guilty or are convicted.

There are 14 former Pilot employees who have pleaded guilty, including Mosher.

 


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