3 ex-employees of the truck stops controlled by Haslams convicted

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee. – Three of the four former employees of the truck stop chain Pilot Flying J already on trial since November, were sentenced Thursday in connection with a discount scam.

The former company President Mark Hazelwood and former representative Heather Jones were found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, news channels reported.

Former company Vice President Scott “Scooter” Wombold was convicted of one count of wire fraud. But he and former staff member Karen Mann, were acquitted of conspiracy.

Pilot Flying J is controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The Haslams has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing. The governor has not been involved in the company in recent years.

The verdict followed four days of deliberations in the U. S. District Court in Chattanooga, where the case has been going on since November.

Hazelwood was also convicted of wire fraud and witness tampering, and found not guilty of one count of wire fraud. Wombold was also found not guilty of two counts of wire fraud and three counts of making false statements to federal agents. Jones was found not guilty of four counts of wire fraud.

Pilot Flying J issued a statement after the verdicts were announced, saying it has focused on its customers.

“Almost five years ago upon learning of the improper transactions, we made whole any customer is negatively affected, entered into a Criminal Enforcement Agreement with the government, fully cooperate with the government investigation, and made it policy, procedure and personnel changes to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” the statement said.

The sentencing was set for June 27 in Chattanooga.

Fourteen former Pilot flying J employees pleaded guilty earlier, and some testified during the trial. They are awaiting sentencing by U. S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier.

The jurors said in a note on Wednesday they had reached a unanimous verdict on all but one charge, where one suspect. On Thursday morning, the jury said in a note, they remained deadlocked on that charge.

Collier then gave them a statement designed to ask the judges to re-examine their individual voices and try one more time for a decision by unanimity.

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