‘I let it go too far’: Architect of Pilot Flying J fraud scheme sentenced to prison

CHATTANOOGA – The race at Pilot Flying J belonged to the fastest – no matter how many rules had to be broken to claim first place.

“Our culture at the very top was to be hyper-competitive,” former executive John “Stick” Freeman told a federal judge Wednesday. “You didn’t succeed at our company by backing down or asking questions.”

Freeman, 55, will spend two-and-a-half years in prison for not asking those questions. He and fellow former Pilot executives Vicki Borden and Brian Mosher faced the judge for sentencing in their roles in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme that cheated trucking companies nationwide out of promised diesel rebates over at least five years.

U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier sentenced Freeman and Borden to two-and-a-half years behind bars and Mosher to two years. Freeman and Mosher must each pay a $100,000 fine, and Borden a $75,000 fine.

Had each not pleaded guilty early in the case and handed over evidence to prosecutors, the judge said he wouldn’t have been so kind.

“This was a concerted criminal action,” Collier said. “The defendants were able to commit a massive crime on a massive scale across a long period of time. The chances of being caught were small. We don’t want to live in a society where a company can engage in behavior such as this.”

All three got off easier than their former boss, onetime Pilot president Mark Hazelwood. He’ll spend 12-and-a-half years in prison for overseeing the fraud – including Christmas, despite Hazelwood’s pleas to spend the holiday with his family before turning himself in.

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