Three key members of the fraud at Pilot Travel Centers against trucking companies on Wednesday got reduced sentences for their help to the government.
Brian Mosher, who was given credit for being most helpful to the government, was ordered by Judge Curtis Collier to serve two years in federal prison.
John "Stick" Freeman, a leader of the Pilot sales team, and office manager Vicki Borden got 30 months each.
Prior to getting reductions for their help, Freeman and Mosher had guideline ranges of 51-63 months and Ms. Borden was at 30-37 months.
Prosecutor Trey Hamilton recommended the reductions.
Attorneys then asked for variances to further lower the sentences. However, Judge Collier denied the motions. He said, "The message has to be that if you engage in this kind of conduct there are dire consequences."
Freeman and Ms. Borden must report on Jan. 7. That is when two former Pilot employees who were convicted after a trial - Scott "Scotter" Wombold and Heather Jones - also were directed to start their sentences. Former Pilot president Mark Hazelwood, who got 12 and a half years in prison after his jury conviction, must report on Nov. 30. Wombold got six years, while Ms. Jones received 33 months after the jury trial. Hazelwood and Wombold are appealing.
Mosher was given until Feb. 4 so he can make arrangements for the business.
Freeman and Mosher were ordered to pay fines of $100,000 each. Ms. Borden must pay a $75,000 fine. Each also has a $100 assessment. After serving their time, they will be on supervised release for two years.
Prosecutor Hamilton called Mosher "one of the government's most important witnesses" in the lengthy trial against Hazelwood, Wombold and Ms. Jones. He added, "His assistance has been extremely significant."
Attorney Steven Kowal, of Chicago, said Mosher had built a successful business at his hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa, and was a dedicated member of his church. He said Mosher was guilty of "rationalizing and choosing not to stop it (the fraud)." He said some Mosher friends from Bettendorf had come to support him at the sentencing.
Attorney Joseph Costner of Maryville said Ms. Borden "has worked very hard her entire life," while entering the workforce after high school. He said she was not directly involved in the scheme, but did have knowledge of it and went along.
He said Ms. Borden, who is 65, has had to deal with helping to raise her grandchild as well as tend to her husband, who had a brain tumor in 2008, then meningitis. He said the husband has to be continually monitored to seek to prevent a recurrence of meningitis.
Attorney Costner said Ms. Borden "recognized some things were wrong and she should have called attention to them." He said she "stood ready to testify."
Attorneys said the families of the defendants have stood with them following their arrests by the FBI and the subsequent embarrassment.
Chattanooga attorney Roger Dickson said Freeman "started his very significant contribution on Day 1. He was a catalyst for three others to come forward and plead guilty." He said Freeman also provided documents "that were very helpful in the prosecution of Mark Hazelwood."
Attorney Dickson said because Freeman stood ready to testify that limited the proof from Hazelwood and Wombold.
Mosher told the judge, "I am deeply ashamed of defrauding my friends and customers. I have had countless sleepless nights over this." He said he wants to be a positive example for his seven-year-old son going forward.
Freeman said, "I fully accept responsibility. I made some terrible mistakes. I chose to be dishonest with certain customers." He said he felt badly about involving co-workers at Pilot in the scheme. He asked Ms. Borden to forgive him, and he asked Judge Collier to consider no prison time for Katy Bibee, who was earlier diagnosed with breast cancer.
He said there was ultra-competitiveness from the top at Pilot, and he said, "It was all about being part of the team. I lost sight of the principles I had taught my three sons when I was their coach."
Ms. Borden said, "There is no one here to blame for what I did." She said she does worry about her husband's well-being while she is away.
It was Mosher who taught a seminar for fellow Pilot employees on how to defraud certain trucking firms at a sales meeting break-out session.
And it was Freeman, who hosted a party at his lake house where the group was secretly recorded cheering a racist country song that was being played.