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Ex-Pilot Flying J president gets 12 1/2 years in prison for part in rebate fraud scheme

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President Mark Hazelwood headed to jail for 150 months.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The former president of the largest U.S. fuel retailer has been sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison and fined $750,000 in a scheme to defraud trucking companies.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier sentenced former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood to 150 months on Wednesday.

Hazelwood was convicted earlier this year of conspiracy, wire fraud and witness tampering.

The jury heard secret recordings of Hazelwood using racial slurs and profanely criticizing his board of directors and his boss’s football team and fans. Hazelwood apologized for his language.

“The motive was hubris — his competitiveness … his desire to capture more market share for Pilot,” Collier said, according to the newspaper report. “The defendant improperly took it upon himself to use the Pilot name and reputation … This degree of commandeering … the court is not aware of any reported case where such a situation has happened.

“Mr. Hazelwood abused the trust of Pilot and the trust placed in him,” Collier continued. “The participants (in the fraud scheme) laughed and joked about it. They used extreme and offensive language. They used Pilot’s email … cellphones … financial management system. They talked openly of this criminal activity … He violated the law on a constant and repeated basis for half a decade.”

Collier is allowing Hazelwood to remain free through November while the U.S. Bureau of Prisons determines in what facility he will be housed. He will remain under conditions of house arrest imposed after his conviction in February.

Hazelwood was convicted after a four-month trial of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and witness tampering.

He was the highest-ranking member of Pilot Flying J who was convicted in the plot. Two subordinates were convicted of varying crimes alongside him, and 14 others pleaded guilty. Two were granted immunity. Pilot Flying J’s board also admitted criminal responsibility.

Court documents showed Hazelwood was earning $26.9 million at the height of the fraud plot — double his pay when the scheme began in earnest.

Even after his indictment in 2016, Hazelwood continued to make money from the trucking industry. He heads a trucker recruitment firm; a trucking consulting firm and markets himself as an agent for truckers — all while under house arrest.

Trial testimony showed Hazelwood and his subordinates used a diesel fuel discount program Hazelwood created that was supposed to allow small trucking companies the same type of breaks on diesel fuel granted much larger firms.

But, court records show, Hazelwood and his subordinates shaved pennies off those discounts — with the trucking firms unaware. Prosecutors Trey Hamilton and David Lewen argued the fraud plot not only netted money from the thievery itself but, more importantly, lured trucking firms to do business with Pilot.

The Knoxville newspaper reported that defense attorney James Walden argued Hazelwood wasn’t “preying on old ladies.” Walden said the trucking companies barely suffered — if at all.

“They are not mom and pop stores,” Walden said, according to the newspaper’s report, “They’re corporations … You’ve never heard from a representative of even one of these customers … The victims have come forward in droves to support (Hazelwood).”

At least four trucking company owners who were listed as victims of the fraud plot — which involved at least 78 firms — filed letters of support on behalf of Hazelwood.

Walden argued Hazelwood revolutionized the trucking and truck stop industry and has used his wealth and his time for good deeds after working his way up from “humble beginnings.”

Hazelwood denied guilt in his remarks to Collier on Wednesday.

“I’m devastated I’m having to stand before you today,” the newspaper said he told the judge before sentencing. “I will be appealing my conviction. I do proclaim my innocence. We should have had policies and procedures to prevent this. We didn’t. I’m truly sorry.”

Pilot Flying J paid Hazelwood $40 million to settle his employment contract when Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam fired him — a year after the April 2013 raid on Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville that unraveled the scheme.

Pilot Flying J is also paying Hazelwood’s legal bills as part of the contract settlement.

Lewen noted all that money Pilot has shelled out when he urged Collier to hit Hazelwood with a fine in addition to a prison term.

“Mr. Hazelwood is not being required to pay one red cent to one victim in this case … because the company Pilot Flying J has already paid restitution to the victims in this case,” Lewen said.

Collier described Pilot Flying J as a victim, too, of Hazelwood’s fraud plot.

“Pilot had a good brand, but as a result of the defendant’s actions … Pilot suffered harm,” Collier said.

Pilot Flying J is controlled by the family of Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The Haslams haven’t been charged with any wrongdoing. The governor hasn’t been involved in the company in recent years.

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. MARIO ALBERTO Garza

    September 28, 2018 at 5:27 am

    No other victim,victims went after him he was right but everyone everyone down to the governor got a share of some type of payment even money paid out from pilots,flying j pocket we’re not felt it will soon enough just like the bigger trucking companies thinking they won’t loose business to other companies even mom’s and pops it’s a new day in the industry look hard for who you want to drive for don’t be fooled by what they tell you get info I did and doing good with smaller less than a thousand truck unit good luck to all house arrest come on

  2. Ron Mitchell

    September 28, 2018 at 6:45 am

    As CEO he is top dog representing Pilot Flying J. Even a CEO has to answer to the Board of Directors and Shareholders. I find it hard to believe they were not aware of his wrong doings especially when the guilty brag about it. The fact PFJ gave him $40 million and pay his legal expenses speaks volume. Money talks.

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David Isaac named TMC Transportation’s Trainer of the Month for September

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DES MOINES, Iowa — David Isaac has been named TMC Transportation’s Trainer of the Month for September.

Isaac started at TMC on Valentine’s Day in 2014. He spent eight years in the military and transitioned into his job at TMC while he was still enlisted.

“TMC was the only flatbed company that stood out to me, especially the company being employee-owned,” he said.

After driving on his own for a year and a half, Isaac decided to give driver training a try.

“The instruction aspect of the job was interesting to me,” he said. “There are multiple ways to do one job, but I wanted to make sure that the end result is what is required of our company standards.”

When it comes to his training style, Isaac takes a supervising role.

“I try to let my trainees do as much as they can on their own, but I keep a close eye on them so I can correct them as needed,” he says. “I feel like this is the best way for them to get a feel of what it will be like once they have their own truck.”

Isaac’s favorite part of training is meeting other drivers and helping to be a part of their success. “It’s great to see new guys do well,” he said, adding that it is great for the company and himself as a driver.

“You can learn even while you’re teaching, whether it be a load you wouldn’t normally or discovering a more efficient way to do things,” he said.

Overall, Isaac is grateful for the opportunities he’s had while driving for TMC.

“From the discipline it takes to do the job to the relationships I have built with my peers, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” he said.

Each month a TMC Transportation trainer who demonstrates the outstanding qualities TMC looks for in a trainer is honored. The Trainer of the Month recipient is chosen based on their safety record and the safety performance of their trainees, the number of drivers trained and the retention percentage of those drivers.

For more information, visit www.tmctrans.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

SBTC’s anti-ELD petition stalls, Lamb uses ‘phone call’ to put blame on OOIDA

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Small Business in Transportation Coalition President James Lamb tells viewers his investigators have uncovered evidence that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is sabotaging his organization’s efforts to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ask the White House to immediately suspend the ELD mandate. (Courtesy: SMALL BUSINESS IN TRANSPORTATION COALITION)

In an online editorial we posted August 22, we described the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) as positioning itself to be a one-organization wrecking crew targeting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the electronic logging device mandate.

In particular, SBTC and its president, James Lamb, have been on a tear against electronic logging devices.

(This is the same James Lamb who in early 2018 agreed to settle a probe into his business dealings brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which accused Lamb and several of his businesses of cheating owner-operators out of millions of dollars over the course of several years. Lamb denied the charges, but the FTC is in the process of paying out $900,000 to truckers who the FTC says were scammed.) 

After the FMCSA denied its application asking that carriers with under 50 employees be exempted from the ELD mandate, SBTC asked FMCSA to reconsider the denial. 

With no apparent hope that FMCSA would reverse its decision (remember ELDs were ordered by Congress), Lamb and SBTC have moved up the ladder to Congress and now to the White House.

AN EDITORIAL

Currently, SBTC is asking drivers to sign a petition asking Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump to immediately suspend the ELD rule.

SBTC says it needs to have 100,000 signatures (it’s not likely to happen) before the White House will respond to the request to suspend the rule (that’s not going to happen).

On October 31, Lamb published an e-mail asking the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to join SBTC in support of the petition.

Lamb apparently never heard from OOIDA, and with his petition drive stalled at around 30,000, Lamb decided to blame OOIDA for the slowdown and appears to have set out to make his point with an elaborate scheme that he is reporting through his e-mail blasts to the media and others, claiming that OOIDA is sabotaging his petition effort.

In a video released at 5:20 p.m. Central time November 11, Lamb said he had some “disturbing” information regarding the ELD suspension petition.

“We have through our private investigators uncovered that OOIDA has been sabotaging our petition. We hired a private investigator to follow up on leads that we have received regarding possible interferences with our petition and boy, did we find out what’s going on here.

“I’m going to play you the tape the investigators sent me (actually the tape of the phone call made only hours or maybe even minutes before) so you can listen to it yourself and boy is it bad news for Todd Spencer (OOIDA president and CEO) and this woman … at OOIDA.”

That “call” was obviously definitely recorded November 11 because the caller mentioned having to work on the holiday, which was Veterans Day. The man said his name was Mike (he also used the name Michael).

It was easy to tell the call was a set up because the man who identified himself as Mike was obviously and purposely speaking into a recording device and recording the other end of the call from a speaker phone.

(An average observer would likely have thought the call was legitimate and that Lamb’s investigators had worked hard to uncover it, but we rather suspect it was a set up and the tape was handed to him shortly after it was made. Or he might even have been in the room when the “call” was made.

A transcript of the tape shows Mike told the woman at OOIDA he wasn’t a member of OOIDA but had heard about the petition campaign and wanted to know if OOIDA was in support of the petition.

He even claimed he’d never heard of James Lamb.

The woman at OOIDA offered to send Mike information about Lamb.

She asked for his e-mail address and after a long hesitation he gave two: mikeferrili@yahoo.com and mikeferilli@yahoo.com.

E-mails sent to those addresses by The Trucker bounced back as undeliverable. (Surprise, surprise).

Based on the transcript, Mike kept trying to coerce the woman into telling him not to sign the petition (the “call” lasted almost 15 minutes), but not once did she do that, only suggesting that petitions were not effective in getting change in Washington.

Contacting members of Congress is the most effective way, she said, citing an instance when OOIDA and its members contacted a Congressman, contacts that led to him reversing his support of speed limiters.

The woman told Mike that some members of OOIDA had signed the petition.

Mike kept on and on, obviously and in the opinion of this writer hoping the woman would tell him not to sign the petition, but the woman said absolutely nothing to discourage drivers from signing the petition.

At one point, the woman reminded Mike that OOIDA had been fighting against ELDs and their predecessors since 1978.

After the tape of the telephone “call” ended on his video, Lamb reiterated that OOIDA had done everything in its power to keep truckers from signing the petition.

“Mr. Spencer it looks like we have a problem. Our legal team (the same one that handed Lamb the tape of the supposed phone call) is going to be reviewing this and you are going to have some explaining to do to a judge,” he said.

We too, have a problem, and it’s with Mr. Lamb trying to lay the blame for his failure directly on someone else.

We call on Mr. Lamb and his organization to get off his anti-ELD horse.

That horse is in the barn, sir, and it’s not coming out.

If you are as powerful as you say you are, turn that power into doing something about the real issues that plague trucking today, matters such as driver pay, the lack of safe parking and driver detention, just to name a few.

OOIDA and many others in the trucking industry are really concerned about those issues.

So should you be.

 

 

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The Nation

Please grab hold. Please grab hold.

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As things turn colder around America, here is yet another video of a truckers ice encounter.
You know in their mind they were repeating… “please grab hold”!
Location: Somewhere along Lake Shore Drive in Decatur, IL.

Courtesy: WANDTV

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