Haslam to face deposition Dec. 13 in fuel rebate suit

Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam will submit to a deposition next month in Knoxville in connection with a lawsuit that alleges his company cheated two trucking companies out of fuel rebates.

A Franklin County, Ohio, judge has approved the videotaped deposition for Dec. 13 in the offices of prominent law firm Ritchie, Dillard, Davies & Johnson, documents show.

"The deposition will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will continue from day to day until completed," a notice dated Thursday states.

Related: 2017 trials on schedule

Related: 8 indicted in alleged rebate scheme

Lawyers for FST Express Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, and HB Logistics of Birmingham, Ala., have been seeking to question Haslam about the company's handling of fuel rebates, which now are the subject of a federal prosecution in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Haslam has not been charged with a crime. He's said he did nothing wrong and knew of no wrongdoing by his employees.

Pilot Flying J, which operates convenience centers nationwide and in Canada, is one of the largest privately held companies in America. Haslam's father, Jim Haslam, founded Pilot Oil in the 1950s, and his brother, Bill Haslam, is the state's governor.

Haslam also owns the Cleveland Browns football team.

An April 2013  federal raid at Pilot headquarters in Bearden touched off an ongoing federal prosecution as well as a flurry of lawsuits, most of which have been settled.

Ten former employees have admitted through guilty pleas in Knoxville that they took part in a conspiracy to defraud trucking companies with promises of rebates on fuel sales. The government alleges Pilot employees conspired to skim tens of millions of dollars in rebates that were promised to customers.

Eight Pilot employees, including former president Mark Hazelwood, await trial on fraud charges, now set for 2017.

Pilot already has paid a $92 million fine in an agreement with the government that spares it from facing criminal charges. It also had paid about $85 million to resolve federal lawsuits filed by trucking customers.

FST and HB Logistics were not parties to that settlement.

Indictments in February

Federal indictments against the eight defendants were unsealed in February in Knoxville.

Defendants include former executives Hazelwood, Scott "Scooter" Wombold, 56, and John ‘Stick” Freeman, 52.

Hazelwood, Wombold and Freeman left the company in May 2014. Wombold and Freeman reported directly to Hazelwood, the government alleges.

All defendants have pleaded innocent.

Pilot issued a statement after the February indictments: “We’re obviously disappointed and saddened by today’s events but cannot comment further on any matters which are part of the ongoing investigation. We can say that since this unfortunate episode began, the company has put in place policies and procedures unparalleled in the industry to prevent anything like this from happening again.

“The company has cooperated with the investigation since its beginning and will continue to do so. The company repaid affected customers, accepted legal responsibility, and agreed to pay a monetary penalty. The trust and confidence of Pilot Flying J’s customers continues to be of paramount importance to the company and their continued support and loyalty is very much appreciated.”


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