Four Pilot Travel Center employees involved in a massive fraud against trucking companies were granted probation at Federal Court in Chattanooga on Wednesday afternoon.
They included Katy Bibee, who found she had cancer two weeks after the FBI came calling on her front porch, and Kevin Clark, who lost a son to cancer last March.
The government had classified the foursome as the least culpable in the scheme.
They will be on probation for three years. Ms. Bibee, Chris Andrews and Michael Scott Fenwick must perform 200 hours of community service and Clark perform 150 hours.
Fenwick was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and Clark $3,000.
At the start of the hearing, before credits were given, Andrews and Ms. Bibee were facing 24-30 months, Fenwick 18-24 months and Clark 12-18 months.
Judge Curtis Collier noted that the four defendants had cooperated with the government early and all but Fenwick testified at the trial of Pilot president Mark Hazelwood and three others. The attorney for Fenwick said he had been in Salt Lake City ready to go, but never got the call.
Judge Collier said the case was "a remarkable story - it ought to be put in a book or perhaps a movie to make our citizens aware of the importance of making right decisions."
He said, "There were massive losses in the tens of millions."
Ms. Bibee said, "I'm sorry for the customers I lied to. I've learned a hard lesson."
She said she was on Cloud 9 when at a young age she joined "the most revered company in Knoxville." She said, "That it operated at a fast pace was quickly revealed to me. Every email was marked Urgent or ASAP."
Ms. Bibee said the message was "never stop adding travel centers and giving back to the community. It seemed like enough was never enough."
She told the judge, "It often felt like we were playing with Monopoly money. At times I felt uneasy and I rationalized. Then it snowballed." She said she still asks herself, "Why did I not speak up?"
She stated, "Now I know that I have three beautiful children and a husband and all we need are each other." She said she now concentrates on "living a life of honesty and standing up for what is right - even if it is hard."
Her attorney said Ms. Bibee spends much of her time with PTA work and with mentoring young women who also get cancer diagnoses. A number of those she has helped were in the packed courtroom.
All of the defendants expressed remorse, saying they were especially ashamed of cheating their customers. The attorney for Andrews said he had tried to get a job in the corporate world, but he was never hired because of his involvement in the Pilot case. Andrews said he and his second wife had twin daughters and had started their own murder mystery dinner theater business. It has grown to six theaters.
Andrews said, "I lied and cheated and caused real harm. I am so ashamed."
Fenwick told of "the sorrow and shame I have felt for the past five years." He said, Now you can trust me to do the right thing each and every day."
Clark told the judge, "I am truly sorry for the harm I caused - especially to my customers." He said he and his wife have started a pet fencing business.