A former Flying J regional sales manager testified Tuesday that he found a different culture at Knoxville-based Pilot after it acquired his former company out of bankruptcy in 2010.
Chris Andrews, testifying in the fraud trial of four former Pilot employees at Chattanooga, said Flying J had a straight-forward formula for when trucking firms would qualify for discounts based on fuel purchases. After the arrangement was worked out according to the set formula, a contract was drawn up and Fed Exed to the Flying J sales director to sign.
He said the salesman then moved on to the next account.
At Pilot, he said the salesman was in charge of working out whatever deal he could with the customer, then kept the account and earned commissions on it based on how much profit came in.
He also learned that various Pilot salesmen were not giving certain trucking firms the promised discount, which he said ended up cheating the truckers and enriching Pilot.
Andrews, who is one of 14 former Pilot employees who earlier entered guilty pleas to mail and wire fraud, said he began following the same practice on a number of his new accounts.
The witness, who was with Pilot from July 2010 to the end of 2013, told of once "getting busted" on the practice. He said he remembers being in Monroeville, Ala., with sales director John Freeman and another salesman in the car.
He said a call came in from Honey Transport saying they "had caught the deception."
Andrews said when he got off the phone, Freeman told him, "It sounds like you just got busted."
Andrews said the Honey representative "was upset. She wanted to know what was going on."
He said he later concocted a story with a sales assistant to say that on Dec. 19 of the prior year there had been a wrong entry made on the discount. Pilot then paid the firm a $10,031 rebate.
Andrews said actually Honey was owed even more for an earlier time period. He said, "We lied to them twice."
He said the Honey official told him, "I will be auditing your account every month."
The jury heard a conversation that was secretly taped by Vince Greco, a top Pilot employee who started working undercover for the government. Andrews said it took place at a hotel lobby on Feb. 6, 2013.
John Freeman can be heard saying, "We've all had cases where we've gotten busted. I have myself." But he said you "keep playing the same game."
Greco asked, "What if you can't talk your way out of it and they've got you nailed?" Freeman replied, "You pay up."
On the tape there was discussing of "Manuel." Andrews said that referred to cheating trucking firms by the manual discount program.
Also on the tape, Freeman said Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam not only knew of truckers being cheated, but "he loved it." Freeman said, "He knew - absolutely."
Jimmy Haslam, also the owner of the Cleveland Browns, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Andrews said he now knows of three different times when he was present and Greco had his hidden tape recorder going.
He said one was at a Knoxville sales meeting when salesman Brian Mosher was describing how to cheat "lazy" truckers.
It was testified earlier in the day that one of the defendants on trial, Karen Mann, made $117,000 her last year at Pilot.
Also on trial are Mark Hazelwood, Scott Wombold and Heather Jones.
The case resumes next Monday morning at the Federal Courthouse on Georgia Avenue. Judge Curtis Collier is presiding. He will sentence all the Pilot defendants who plead guilty or are convicted.
There will be two days of testimony next week.