This was a bombshell week in the court case against the few former Pilot Flying J sales employees and executives who did not plead guilty to charges stemming from the infamous fuel rebate scam. Former director of national accounts Brian Mosher took the stand this week to testify about his own involvement. But what he said could leave former president Mark Hazelwood – and even current CEO Jimmy Haslam – hanging out to dry.
On the day of the federal raid when FBI and IRS agents showed up unannounced to the Pilot Flying J headquarters, Mosher wasn’t there. In fact, he didn’t even know that the headquarters were being raided because he was busy dealing with federal agents who showed up to raid his home in Iowa where he worked.
According to testimony from Mosher, when the agents arrived, Mosher made a phone call.
“I was asked to make a phone call and I did — (to) Jimmy Haslam,” Mosher testified in court. “I said, ‘Jimmy, we’ve been caught.’”
But instead of asking what he meant, Mosher says Haslam “immediately transferred me to Pilot legal (counsel).”
In addition to being CEO of Pilot Flying J, Haslam is also the owner of the Cleveland Browns and brother to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Haslam has maintained from the outset that he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and didn’t know about the fuel rebate scam. Spokespeople for Pilot Flying J have reiterated again and again that that is still his position, including after this week’s testimony. But Mosher says differently.
According to Mosher, he showed spreadsheets to both Haslam and Hazelwood showing how much money the company was saving each month thanks to the fuel rebate scam.
“Early on, I would explain the way the spreadsheet was laid out,” Mosher said. “But later on we would just look at the bottom line.”
Mosher even used this data to lobby his bosses for a promotion – a promotion that he received after he allegedly told Hazelwood he was going to stop defrauding customers with the manual rebate system.
It wasn’t just Mosher’s testimony that was new however. During the investigation, one of the PFJ salesmen, Vincent Greco, was wearing a wire and acting as a mole. Some of those recordings were made public previously, but over the course of the trial more and more have been coming out. One such recording was of a sales retreat in November of 2012 which was mandatory for all sales staff and was attended by both Hazelwood and Haslam.
The retreat included a session that John “Stick” Freeman (who pled guilty to his role in the fraud) asked Mosher to lead. The session allegedly walked the salespeople through how to defraud trucking companies using the manual rebate system. Mosher testified that he “believed” Haslam was there for that meeting, but his voice was not heard on the recording.
Haslam did pop up later on in the retreat however during a session hosted by Hazelwood when the executives were discussing a “cost plus” discount for a potential new account. Haslam said “Sounds like Stick’s deal with Western.” Which appears to be a reference to when Freeman was caught allegedly cheating trucking company Western Express, but then agreed to buy a dilapidated airplane from them for $1 million to smooth things over – a story that appears to have become legend at the company.
In response to Haslam’s comment, Hazelwood then said “Yeah, well, we’re … going to introduce him to a guy by the name of Manuel.” Salespeople would allegedly use “Manuel” as a code name for those being taken advantage of using the manual rebate system.
Again, representatives for Jimmy Haslam have continually denied that the CEO had any knowledge of the fuel rebate scam and Haslam has not been charged with a crime.