Jury In Pilot Trial Deliberates Over 3 Hours, Then Goes Home Until Monday; Prosecutor Says Hazelwood Fostered "Culture Of Fraud"

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The jury in the Pilot Travel Centers trial deliberated over three hours on Wednesday afternoon, then went home until again convening on Monday at 9 a.m. One juror had obligations for the next two days, Judge Curtis Collier said.

The sister of one of the defendants, Scott Wombold, died and her funeral is Monday. Judge Collier excused him from being in court on Monday.

His attorneys said Wombold will return Monday evening.

Attorneys were discussing what would happen if the jury returns verdicts on Monday with Wombold gone. One option was to have the jury deliver the other three verdicts and give the one on Wombold when he returns. Another was to wait until all defendants are present.

Earlier Tuesday, prosecutor Trey Hamilton told the Federal Court jury in Chattanooga that Mark Hazelwood fostered a "culture of fraud" at the Knoxville-based firm.

He said the former Pilot president should be convicted of all charges, along with former national sales director Wombold and sales accountants Heather Jones and Karen Mann.

The jury got the case after the charge from Judge Curtis Collier.

Prosecutor Hamilton played audio from a number of secret recordings as he laid out the case involving what he called "a $56 million fraud."

He said all the defendants were involved in the scheme to cheat trucking firms out of promised rebates.

One audio showed the sales staff laughing about successful tricking of "unsophisticated" trucking companies. Prosecutor Hamilton said, "It's a joke to them. How does that happen? That's caused by a culture from leadership - from fraudulent leadership."

He played a tape in which Hazelwood spoke about "Manuel." He said, "Manuel has done a hell of a job." The prosecutor said that referred to manual rebates, which was a process that made it easier to carry out the fraud.

Prosecutor Hamilton said Wombold was aware of the fraud, but never spoke up against it. He said Wombold was making over $1 million a year by 2012.

Ms. Jones was making $115,000 and Ms. Mann $119,000

Hazelwood was paid over $27 million his last year at Pilot.

As to why more witnesses were not called, including sales vice president John Freeman, he said the jury had "heard enough from him" on secretly recorded tapes.

He said more witnesses would have pushed the case on for more months. 


Roadside Motels Had Their Heyday Until The Freeway Ruined Things; They Are Featured In Chattanooga In Old Photos

Missing 72-Year-Old Rossville Woman Found Dead Near Her Home After Car Wrecked In Gulley

Fleischmann Congratulates Majority Leader McCarthy On Successful Minority Leader Bid


Roadside motels run by Mom and Pop had their heyday in the early days of motor travel up until the 1950s and 1960s. Then the freeways came along and suddenly their traffic was virtually gone. ... (click for more)

The body of a 72-year-old Rossville woman reported missing since last Sunday afternoon was found Wednesday morning by Walker County detectives searching the wooded area near her home. Detectives ... (click for more)

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann issued the following statement congratulating House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) on being elected minority leader for the 116 th Congress: “ Kevin is a friend, ... (click for more)


Breaking News

Roadside Motels Had Their Heyday Until The Freeway Ruined Things; They Are Featured In Chattanooga In Old Photos

Roadside motels run by Mom and Pop had their heyday in the early days of motor travel up until the 1950s and 1960s. Then the freeways came along and suddenly their traffic was virtually gone. A long list of the roadside motels that once thrived in and around Chattanooga are featured in the new book Chattanooga in Old Photos, sponsored by Chattanoogan.com. Some of those pictured ... (click for more)

Missing 72-Year-Old Rossville Woman Found Dead Near Her Home After Car Wrecked In Gulley

The body of a 72-year-old Rossville woman reported missing since last Sunday afternoon was found Wednesday morning by Walker County detectives searching the wooded area near her home. Detectives found Dora Lee Stratton’s 1997 white Honda Accord at the bottom of a gulley adjacent to Beverly Street, a dead-end street near her home. Ms. Stratton’s body was found outside her automobile. ... (click for more)

Opinion

County Commissioners, Stop Pandering And Lead

There is no shortage of public need in Hamilton County, and only a limited amount of revenue and capital bond issues. I cannot admire or appreciate an elected Hamilton County Commission that leads by warm and fuzzy kitty emotions over real and tangible needs. As Commissioner Tim Boyd correctly stated, there is immediate and emergent need for police and fire training facilities. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Lamar Rants

Being a child of the South, I’ve marveled at our funny sayings for all of my life. I’ve been at a football game and heard a disgruntled fan in the stands say of his team’s quarterback, “That boy couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie.” I’ve been at the Sunday supper table and heard, “I’m of a mind each one of his sermons is better than the next.” And I’ve sat in a Saturday morning ... (click for more)

Sports

Chattanooga's Jordan Leen Hall Of Fame Inductee

Bethlehem, PA – The Hall of Fame Committee of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA), college wrestling’s oldest conference, is proud to announce that four new members have been elected for membership into the EIWA Hall of Fame. Members of the Class of 2019 include James Bennett of Yale University, Mark Kerr of Syracuse University, Jordan Leen of Cornell University ... (click for more)

Eight CCS Athletes Sign On National Signing Day

Eight student athletes from Chattanooga Christian School were joined by family, friends and coaches on Wednesday to celebrate signing to play college athletics. John Rhodes signed with play baseball at Kentucky. Four soccer players signed with area colleges. Katie Dirkse signed with Lee University andAddie Henry with Carson-Newman. Lucy Sandhoff and Lillie Cate both signed ... (click for more)