Two former Pilot Flying J sales workers shed light Thursday on an alleged staff plot to cheat some trucking customers of fuel rebates as the federal fraud trial for four former employees continued in Chattanooga.
Former employee Lexie Holden testified the sales staff wondered about the loyalty in 2011 of a new sales employee who had previously worked for a trucking company. Some sales staff were engaged in a scheme to short-change trucking companies of promised rebates, she testified.
Other sales staff went behind Kevin Hite's back and adjusted some of his clients' rebate rates to carry on the scam, she said.
Later, Holden told U.S. District Court jurors, he learned about what was going on.
"I was nervous to call him, nervous to tell him what we'd been doing to his customers without his knowledge," she said.
Holden , who has pleaded guilty to fraud in the scheme, is awaiting sentencing. She told prosecutor Trey Hamilton she hoped for a break in sentencing when it's time to face her punishment from U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier.
She testified she knew she was defrauding some trucking customers out of promised fuel rebates.
The government alleges Pilot made millions from at least 2008-2012. The privately held company has since paid a $92 million penalty and more than $80 million in civil settlements to customers. It also has cooperated with the government in the federal investigation.
Another former Pilot employee, Danny Peyton, told jurors Thursday he became upset in 2008 when he learned a Pilot client was being cheated out of promised rebates.
He said he reported it to several Pilot executives including Mark Hazelwood, who went on to become company president.
Peyton, of Hot Springs, Ark., testified after he complained that sales managers moved to fix what they tried to pass off as a mistake.
Peyton left Pilot and went to work for a competitor, the Love's chain. He has not been charged.
Besides Hazelwood, former sales employees Karen Mann, Heather Jones and Scott Wombold are on trial accused of fraud in the federal case. The trial, which is being held in Chattanooga because of publicity in the Knoxville area, started in early November.
Fourteen former employees, including Holden, have pleaded guilty and agree to cooperate with the government.
The case takes a break next week. It'll resume Jan. 29.
Collier announced at the end of the day Thursday that a juror was leaving because she has gotten a new job in Knoxville. Another juror previously has been released.
At trial's beginning there were 12 jurors and four alternates picked to hear the case.
The trial is expected to continue at least into February.