This week, the Defense in the Pilot Flying J fuel rebate fraud trial attacked the notion that wrongdoing was an open secret at the company, pointing to the frequent use of code words between members of the sales staff, according to a Knoxville News Sentinel report.
Up until now, the focus in the trial of four accused Pilot Flying J sales staff had been on former president Mark Hazelwood and his alledged knowledge of and role in the company’s schemen to defraud less savvy trucking companies of promised fuel rebates. The other fomer employees on trial are Scott Wombold, former vice president of national accounts, and two former sales representatives, Karen Mann and Heather Jones.
So far in the case, former employees have testified in various ways that Hazelwood was aware of the fraud and encouraged the practice. The defense, however, has focused on the frequent use of "code words" to describe the scam internally, inlcuding such terms as “Manual rebates” and “Manuel."
The defense argued that by never using words like fraud, cheat, or steal, it indicated that they were trying to disguise the illegal activities, even in open and private settings. Key testimony from Brian Mosher, a former sales director who has pled guilty, seemed to push back at the idea that the code words were proof that it was a secret within the company. He told defense attorneys that he felt they were speaking openly.
The defense also cast doubt on Mosher’s motives within the company, pointing out that by his own admission, the fraud helped him out both financially and with his ambitions in the company. Attorneys for Wombold pointed out that Mosher had lost out on a promotion to vice president to Wombold.
In previous testimony, Mosher told jurors that he was so good at defrauding companies that he had maxed out his commission and threatened to stop defrauding companies altogether. Hazlewood allegedly told Mosher that that wasn’t a good idea and Mosher was later given a promotion to director of national accounts.
After proceedings on Dec. 7, a federal judge decided to put the trial on hold until Jan. 8.