Pilot Flying J President Out

Hazelwood departs company, "effective immediately"

Pilot Flying J (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Travel Centers)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A little over a year after an FBI raid on its Knoxville, Tenn., headquarters, Pilot Flying J's president, Mark Hazelwood, has abruptly departed from the company, reported The Tennessean.

"Mark is no longer with the company,"Aubrey Harwell Jr., the Nashville attorney representing Pilot Flying J, told CSP Daily News. He confirmed the accuracy of the Tennessean report.

According to an email obtained by the Knoxville Metro Pulse newspaper and posted to its Twitter feed, reportedly sent to company employees by Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam, "Effective immediately, Mark Hazelwood is no longer employed by Pilot Flying J. Please join me in thanking him for his many years of service. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."

Hazelwood's departure comes after nine of his former colleagues have entered guilty pleas to charges that they engaged in a widespread scheme to cheat trucking companies out of millions of dollars in promised diesel rebates, said the Tennessean.

In transcripts of secretly taped sales staff meetings filed in U.S. District Court a year ago, John Freeman, a top sales executive at the time, told his colleagues that Hazelwood was present at sales meetings where the rebate scheme was discussed. He also stated that Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam knew about the scheme. Haslam has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the rebate allegations.

Click here to view the full Tennessean report.

A source close to Pilot Flying J also said that Scott Wombold also is no longer with the company, reported The Knoxville News-Sentinel. An April 2013 FBI affidavit identified Wombold as vice president of national accounts, reporting to Hazelwood, although his most recent title is unclear.

Click here to view the full News-Sentinel report.

On April 15, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters, beginning an investigation into an alleged scheme perpetrated by some members of the company's sales staff to withhold rebates owed to customers for contacted diesel fuel purchases. About a dozen participants have pleaded guilty to fraud and are cooperating with the authorities.

Pilot Flying J reached an $85 million settlement with hundreds of trucking customers who were affected by the alleged fraud. The company has agreed to repay any amounts owed plus 6% interest; however, more than a dozen companies are pursuing lawsuits outside of the settlement, and Pilot Flying J is seeking to consolidate the pretrial proceedings in several cases.

In January, a federal judge dismissed racketeering and deceptive trade practices charges against the company.

Pilot Flying J has more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Haslam also owns the Cleveland Brown football team.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers