Government Says Former Pilot Travel Centers President Hazelwood Should Be Sentenced To 168-210 Months; Hearing Projected To Take 11 Hours Over 2 Days

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The government is asking that former Pilot Travel Centers president Mark Hazelwood be sentenced to between 168-210 months for his part in a fraud against truckers.

The government is also asking that Hazelwood be ordered to pay a $750,000 fine. It was noted that all restitution has been made by Pilot to the tune of some $100 million.

Attorney Brad Henry, of Knoxville and New York City, is asking that Hazelwood get home confinement or a maximum of three years in federal prison. 

The government said, "Hazelwood led a sophisticated, long-term fraudulent scheme with nationwide consequences even though his formal education ended when he graduated from high school. A lengthy prison sentence would allow Hazelwood to avail himself of post-secondary education opportunities within the Bureau of Prisons.

"Given the seriousness of the offense and the harms caused by Hazelwood, a significant sentence is necessary to promote respect for the law. This factor is especially important in this context. Hazelwood’s crimes were not crimes of opportunity or passion, but were premeditated and carefully orchestrated. A lengthy sentence is thus necessary to provide general deterrence to educated, responsible, intelligent, and calculating individuals."

It also said, "Normally, the United States would agree that a white-collar defendant is unlikely to be able to commit another such crime in the future. But given the nature and extent of Hazelwood’s arrogance, obstruction, and sophistication in operating a complicated, long-running scheme, Hazelwood would again readily seek to defraud those he views as naïve or unsophisticated. Accordingly, the government seeks a lengthy custodial sentence to protect the public." 

The government said, "The pervasive, nationwide fraud in this case, which Hazelwood led and sought to expand, took place over a period of several years and involved millions of dollars. The fraud inflicted financial damage and harm to many trucking companies, including small companies already facing economic peril. Hazelwood set the culture for Pilot’s Direct Sales division and instigated a mentality in his subordinates to prey upon companies that were deemed naïve, trusting, and unsophisticated – indeed, Hazelwood, when hatching his expansion scheme in Orlando, told his subordinates to find customers who “don’t know they have an orifice.” Hazelwood’s activities had a corrosive effect on the over-the-road diesel sales industry specifically and the trucking industry generally. Once caught, Hazelwood took deliberate and intentional steps to obstruct justice by calling his long-time personal assistant and attempting to persuade her to lie about Hazelwood’s knowledge of trip reports."

The defense said the government "cynically attempted to portray Mark as greedy and, worse, a racist. It is indisputable that during Mark’s 30 years in the trucking industry, he did a tremendous amount of good—for Pilot, its employees and, specifically and notably, its trucking company customers and truckers. Mark’s life is likewise replete with remarkable examples of charitable and other good works and deep love, commitment, and support for his family, friends, and the broader community in which he lives. And it is important to add, given the picture of Mark that emerged at trial, that he is a compassionate man, who took in a disadvantaged African-American teen whose mother was ill, paying for his private school education and welcoming him into Mark’s home when the boy’s mother passed away. To date, the government has narrowly focused on the worst that Mark has said and done."

It also said,  "Mark has no criminal history, nor anything in his past suggesting a tendency toward criminality. To the contrary, Mark has led an exemplary life. Starting more than 30 years ago, Mark—lacking any college education—worked hard to better himself and provide for his family. Indeed, Mark is a consummate family man. He is a loving husband to his best friend and partner, Joanne, and a devoted father of three children—Asa, Ashley, and Parker—and a fourth, Jessie, whom he lost tragically in a car accident when she was 16. Despite a demanding job, Mark has always been present as a source of emotional support and guidance for his family. He has taken each and every one of them into his heart and has devoted himself to them. And Mark’s generosity of spirit extends far beyond his immediate family. Mark treats everyone like family. As the letters submitted in his support show, Mark never ceases to give—to organizations seeking to bring joy to chronically ill children, to hospitals and research facilities working to cure and care for the sick, to organizations providing funds for those in need, and to parents seeking to adopt, just to name a few. He gives to friends and even strangers in their times of need, without hesitation and without their having to ask. He gives with a true sense of philanthropy, not for recognition or accolades.

"He also has been dedicated to the trucking industry and those who work in it, including and especially the truckers who spend long, hard hours on the road. As his longtime friend Thomas Albrecht puts it, 'Mark is a giant of a human being.' ”

The defense said, "An observer of the trial in this case would have come away with the impression that Mark was a bad man—a profit-driven, greedy executive, and a racist to boot. The reality is that, throughout his life, Mark has shown himself to be very much the opposite of this: a principled, generous, and tolerant man, who cared deeply about others, including his customers. Mark is a man who has lived, other than this conviction, an irreproachable life." 

Chattanooga trucking executive Max Fuller said of Hazelwood, "While it is perhaps easy to look at his convictions and conclude that Mark’s only concern was profits, in truth he had a vision for the industry that extended far beyond profits and he worked tirelessly to provide the drivers of our nation with quality, safe and clean facilities to make their lives easier over the road."

Attorney Henry asked the court to "sentence this 'giant of a human being' in a way that will allow him to continue to do good—for his family and friends, for truckers, for his community, for children, for the sick, and for complete strangers—just as he has done throughout his entire life."

The sentencing hearing next week is projected to take some 11 hours over two days.

Hazelwood had initially been set to be sentenced on the same day as co-defendants Scott Wombold and Heather Jones, but there sentencings will be later.

All of the sentencings in the highly publicized case involving millions of dollars of fraud against trucking companies will be by Judge Curtis Collier at the Federal Courthouse on Georgia Avenue.

Hazelwood is in home confinement at his Knoxville home. He will be allowed to come to Chattanooga next Tuesday to confer with his attorneys before the start of the hearing on Wednesday morning.

The sentencing is expected to be so lengthy because of arguments over the amount of the losses caused by defendant Hazelwood. The loss amount is a factor in the amount of prison time he will receive.

Judge Collier said character witnesses will not be allowed.

Judge Collier listed this sentencing outline:

Evidence on objections Three hours for Government Three hours for Defense Subtotal: Six hours

Argument on objections 30 minutes for Government 30 minutes for Defense Subtotal: One hour

Argument on departures/variances 30y minutes for Government 30 minutes for Defense Subtotal: One hour

Arguments for sentence/allocution 45 minutes for Government 45 minutes for Defense 30 minutes for Defendant Subtotal: Two hours

Rulings and imposition of sentence One hour

TOTAL: 11 Hours 

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