Witness Says Wombold Told Her He Was Only Guilty Of "Sticking His Head In The Sand" In Pilot Travel Center Fraud

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A witness in the Pilot Travel Centers fraud trial testified Thursday that former national sales director Scott Wombold told her that "if he was guilty of anything, it was sticking his head in the sand."

Lexie Holden told a jury at Federal Court in Chattanooga that the conversation took place after the FBI raided Pilot headquarters in Knoxville on April 15, 2013.

Wombold is on trial along with Mark Hazelwood, Heather Jones and Karen Mann.

Ms. Holden, who earlier pleaded guilty in the case as did many other Pilot employees, said she joined Pilot in 2008 just after graduating from UT Knoxville. She said she started as an administrative assistant and rose through the ranks to national account manager.

She said she was made aware of the ongoing cheating of trucking companies on promised discounts soon after joining the company.

The witness was asked about an email she sent in 2011 regarding a new employee, Kevin Hite, who had formerly worked for a trucking firm. She was inquiring if Hite should be told about the scheme, noting that he might still have some loyalty to his former industry.

She said a sales manager changed discounts on Hite's accounts to keep him from knowing what was going on.

She said she finally had a talk with Hite just before he was set to go on a plane trip with Hazelwood and John Freeman, another top Pilot sales leader at the time. She said she was afraid he would be asked about it on the trip and not know what was being said. 

Ms. Holden said Hite told her he did know what was going on, but he just did not know the amounts customers were being cheated.

The witness said she helped Brian Mosher prepare for a lecture he gave at Pilot headquarters in November 2012 on how to cheat trucking companies.

Attorney Rusty Hardin was about to ask Ms. Holden more on that topic when the prosecution objected, saying it had not been a topic on direct examination.

Attorney Hardin then said he would have to call Ms. Holden as a defense witness later. He made the same statement when some of his questions to an FBI agent who is now stationed in Colorado were objected to.

The Houston attorney commented, "I guess we can try this thing in May."

The trial started in early November. Judge Curtis Collier said recently it may go into March at least.

The judge on Thursday dismissed a juror who has gotten a promotion to a position in Knoxville. Another juror dropped off earlier when she did not show up for court and it was learned she had gone on a pre-paid trip. 

An FBI agent said it was his job to interview president Hazelwood on the day of the raid. He said Hazelwood was at the airport getting ready to board a plane, but he returned.

He said he willingly was interviewed by him for an hour or more.

The witness said he was "courteous and professional."

The agent said there were "way more" than 20 members of law enforcement poring through records at the Pilot headquarters and interviewing key personnel. He said many were armed and some had bullet-proof vests. 

Asked about the mood, he said, "I would think it would be very different than a normal day at the office."

In a reference to the Pilot owners, he said, "I think everybody in Knoxville knows who the Haslams are."

Dan Peyton, a former Pilot salesman, said he learned that Smith Transportation had been cheated. He said he called Hazelwood about it.

He said Hazelwood told him the company would be repaid.

 



Legislation Addressing Retail Theft And Its Link To Tennessee’s Opioid Crisis Advances In State Senate

A  bill which aims to cut off the flow of funds used in the purchase of illegal drugs was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as legislation addressing Tennessee’s opioid crisis moves front and center in the Tennessee General Assembly.  Senate Bill 1717, sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), addresses the use of gift cards obtained through ... (click for more)

Students Leaders Hold Meeting In Response To School Shootings

Student leaders are planning a meeting is response to school shootings.  The meeting will be held Sunday from 3-5 p.m. at the 901 Lindsay venue at 901 Lindsay St.  This event is for student leaders passionate about taking action in response to the epidemic of mass shootings in schools and in the community. The purpose of the meeting is for students in the greater ... (click for more)

Reflections On Billy Graham

Sandra and I are saddened this morning after learning of the death of Billy Graham. We rejoice today, because Mr. Graham once said "It will be reported that Billy Graham has died, but that won't be the truth. He said the truth is that he had only moved to a new location".  I remember when we named 15th Street as Billy Graham Avenue, his daughter Gigi came for the dedication ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We’re The Angriest State

WalletHub, a financial-health website that has found it can draw a lot of attention by ranking the states on which is “fattest,” smartest, and so forth, has just announced its “sinful” rating and Tennessee churches should be ashamed of the job they are doing in making the Volunteer State a haven for puritans. Then again, our tourism may soon explode … remember Sodom & Gomorrah. ... (click for more)

Young Mocs Fall To Mercer 65-56

 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshmen Brooke Burns and Mya Long combined for 36 points in the Mocs’ 65-56 loss to Mercer in Southern Conference women’s basketball action at Hawkins Arena Thursday night. Chattanooga falls to 16-11 on the year and 7-6 in league play. The Bears, ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll, are now 26-2 and 13-0 in SoCon action. ... (click for more)

Covenant Softball Wins Two In Home Opener

The Covenant softball team finally played its home opener and outlasted both the weather and visiting Judson to earn a doubleheader sweep on Thursday afternoon. The Lady Scots won 4-2 in game one, which was delayed over an hour due to heavy rain, and then recorded a 9-1 victory in the finale. Covenant (6-8) had played its first 12 games on the road or in neutral site locations. ... (click for more)