Ex-Pilot Flying J president heads to the slammer

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    By Chuck Woodbury
    EDITOR

    Former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood is set to begin serving a 12 1/2 year sentence for cheating trucking customers out of millions of dollars at the diesel pump

    His lawyers asked earlier this week for the court to postpone his sentence to begin after Christmas, so he could spend the holiday with his family. They cited their client’s “devout” Christian faith and sense of “family values” as grounds for letting him open presents at home with his family.

    The court said, nope, you’ll be spending your Christmas in a jail cell.

    For years, Pilot Flying J has been a popular fueling and overnight stopping point for RVers. The truck stop chain is currently considering a paid overnight parking service for the RV community. Good Sam Club members already receive a fuel discount as part of their membership.

    Based on Mr. Hazelwood’s crimes (and the offensive audio recording below), I don’t see any evidence of his “devout Christian faith.” 

    If you’re like me, you will horrified to hear the following one-minute recording taped by an FBI informant at a Pilot Flying J sales meeting. The primary voice you hear is of Mark Hazelwood.

    WARNING: The language is vulgar and racist. Only listen if you can tolerate such language. 

     
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    46 Comments
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    David FitzGerald
    1 year ago

    It seems to me this is an unnecessary hit job on Pilot Flying J since the fraud was discovered over 5years ago. Berkshire Hathaway currently has approximately 40% ownership and plans on majority ownership by 2023. Full disclosure, I own Berkshire Hathaway stock.

    Aceman51
    1 year ago

    Have not used my Good Sam’s RV Plus card much since they started charging 25-40 cents more a gallon for diesel fuel. It is a shame the FMCA doesn’t offer a discount card for us RV’s. Good Sam’s is no longer interested in RV’s except to charge us extra for their products. A little shopping around will find lower prices on most of their products. Just saying.

    John T
    1 year ago

    If I have a long trip on the interstate where I need to fill up with the trailer in tow, I go to a Flying J because I can expect it to have dedicated, RV-friendly pump lanes. Many Pilots pumps are impossible to navigate with a 25 ft trailer if there is much other traffic there.

    Don Baker
    1 year ago
    Reply to  John T

    Most any truck stop (Pilot included) have truck lanes where they can service any length vehicle trailer combination. With my 40′ coach and Jeep tow I never try to go to the auto area but get in line and fuel with the trucks. Just do not hang around after fueling.

    Eric Meslin
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Don Baker

    I have a 30 foot travel trailer and need gasoline for the tow vehicle. Any Pilot or Flying J I’ve seen only has diesel around back in the truck lanes.

    Fred
    1 year ago

    The story should be that his drunken racist rants were allowed into court by a liberal black Judge and may have contributed in him getting sentenced to over 12 years while others of the 14 charged got less then a quarter of that. This happened in 2013 when Flying J fuel was comparatively not that expensive and the break for RVers was the 2 or 3 cents off with one of the loyalty cards. Truck companys had a different discount billing system. Since late 2017, it is a Berkshire Hathaway company.

    JA
    1 year ago

    Chuck, Not your usual level of “Quality” Journalism.
    The headline has little to do with the real story of fraud and deceit. Only reading some of the posted links was I able figure out the real story….
    We just finished a 4,500 mile trip along the I-40 and I-10 to Tennessee and back to AZ..
    Pilot and Flying J’s Diesel Fuel was ALWAYS 39 to 47 per gallon higher than other nearby stations. I’m told that Good Sam (Lemonis) gets a nice check every month for those Good Sam members who use the Good Sam Discount at Flying J and Pilot.
    So I vote with my money and avoid Pilot and Flying J when ever I can. Too bad someone like FMCA does not work with other truck stops like Love’s or TA to get RV’ers a REAL DISCOUNT…

    rvgrandma
    1 year ago

    I know many ‘devout’ Christians who swear, use vulgarity regularly, see nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage, etc. They choose and pick what part of the Bible they wish to live by. My daughter does that. I have friends on Facebook that regularly use profanity who are Christians. They all know I go by the scripture of: let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. Since profanity including the use of the ‘f’ word is so acceptable now they see no problem. As is my right, I have hidden things they post with profanity.

    That is my feelings. Even Christians get caught up in the lies of the devil and commit crimes. Our laws will judge and convict them. As for judging against what kind of Christian they are – I can voice my opinion, but the rest is God’s job not mine. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God.

    Eric Meslin
    1 year ago
    Reply to  rvgrandma

    Well said rvgrandma. Thank you.

    Perry Sullivan Jr.
    1 year ago

    I hate to burst a lot of bubbles… Pilot/Flying J are now owned by Berkshire/Hathaway.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-pilot-flying-j-warren-buffetts-truck-stop-2017-10

    We’ve been using Pilot/Flying J in Arizona all the way to New Mexico and Texas, and we’ve never had an issue. Yes, the prior owner may have been a jerk and a few other names… but I still like them over Love’s (way over priced in my estimation).

    Bob p
    1 year ago

    Large trucking companies buy millions of gals.of diesel fuel every year, truck stops offer rebates to those companies in return for exclusive fueling of their trucks, Pilot/Flying J was cheating the trucking companies on the rebates for the fuel. It amounted to millions of $ they were cheating them.

    Thom Bell
    1 year ago

    We quit using Flying J/Pilot after we noticed that hey locked up $100-$200 on my credit card for a 20-25 gallon fill-up which totaled less than $75. They would hold the funds for up to 10 days, making interest for that time. I fought with Good Sam Club and they had no interest in helping. Flying J/Pilot scammed a lot of people and made a lot of money!

    John T
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Thom Bell

    They put a lock on for the maximum amount the pump is set up to allow for a purchase, to ensure that the funds are available on your card. They do NOT get that money. The only money that changes hands is for the gas you actually buy.

    Eric Meslin
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Thom Bell

    I found out the hard way a few years ago the credit card authorization is $500 at the RV pumps, but only $75 at the auto pumps. My card was declined because the bank thought it was fraudulent. I called and straightened it out, but haven’t used an RV lane since.

    Bob PV
    1 year ago

    Well, this is NOT a very good example of objective journalism, but more like shallow tabloid sensation reporting — big headlines and no worthwhile content! And what was the purpose of providing the audio segment showing that he is a racist jerk? That had NOTHING to do with his crime or sentence. The facts, that were not presented at all, are that he and over a dozen others in the management structure either pleaded guilty or were convicted of creating an elaborate scheme to commit fraud on a number of small trucking companies by withholding legitimate rebates from contracted prices with those trucking companies. Monies were hidden, moved around (double booking) and crossing state lines that resulted in over a dozen felony fraud charges, interstate wire fraud charges, as well as a variety of smaller fraudulent activities involving purchases of personal items for the benefit of a few of the masterminds. There was never any evidence that fraud was committed at the pump against RVers or anyone that did not have a commercial contract with them for bulk purchase. After all of these revelations, the decision to do business with Flying J or Pilot is a personal choice. The Good SAM discount may or may not be attractive. There are a lot of criteria that influence doing repeat business with any merchant. But, let me offer this perspective. Only a tiny percentage of employees were aware of the fraud. Most have been convicted or permanently discredited and gone. A massive audit was conducted at the behest of the new leadership and all existing contracts reviewed to determine their level of compliance with the legal provisions. The company paid huge fines and all the companies that were cheated have received or in the process of receiving all of their rebates. Senior management has been replaced. Boycotting this business is an option, but the real folks being penalized are the rank and file employees who earn a meager living and were never part of this charade. They all carry the bruising that comes from the damaged reputation of their former senior management and if you engage them in a personal conversation, not while they are on duty, they will tell you that the whole company is working hard to regain trust. I suspect that this is an opportunity for the company to reassess how it wants to move forward in the future. It will not be an easy climb but if you have stopped at any of them recently, business is up, they are selling more fuel and most of their employees are friendly. Shop wisely and just pay attention.

    Journ A Lism
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Bob PV

    Agree. If you can’t add value, write a teaser or small synopsis and provide the link to real reporting.

    Darrel Plummer
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Bob PV

    Bob, this is an editorial not reporting a news story. By definition it is an opinion. Personally, I have no problem with the way Chuck presented the editorial. Thanx.

    David FitzGerald
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Bob PV

    Well said, totally agree.

    Henry Hoyt
    1 year ago

    Howdy All;

    As a former Over-the-Road truck driver I used to like the Flyi’ Fish hooks truck stops. That all changed when the family that began the company sold it to Pilot. Within a year the changes were noticeable. The restaurants were closed and either converted to “Fast food establishments or rented out to a chain type restaurant. That was back in 2010. Shame really the Fj (pre-Pilot), was top notch and a worthwhile place to stop.

    BirdsGo2
    1 year ago

    From your article, I still have no idea what he did to cheat his customers. I also have no idea what value was added by the audio recording other than shock value. It degrades my opinion of RV Travel that you chose to attach it to an article that said nothing other than the guy’s going to jail.

    This feels more like a left-wing-hit-at-Christians article to me.

    Milton Chambers
    1 year ago
    Reply to  BirdsGo2

    Agreed. And I’m not particularly devout, either. Journalism has truly vanished.

    Milton Chambers
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Chuck Woodbury

    Thanks, Chuck.

    David FitzGerald
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Chuck Woodbury

    Chuck,
    I totally agree his actions are not representative of a “devout Christian”. However, the more recent and current ownership of Pilot Flying J has made amends for former executive fraud. Hopefully, with Berkshire Hathaway’s involvement ownership, executives will face more oversight and accountability.

    Jay
    1 year ago
    Reply to  BirdsGo2

    Nothing in the article makes it a “left wing hit at Christians” in my opinion. The sound clip simply shows that the guy in addition to being a jerk in business was also a racist. The fact that he claims he was a “christian” has nothing to do with you being one and says nothing about other christians.

    Brenda
    1 year ago

    My husband because of the ease of filling up our MH with towed will put up with the extra cents per gallon. Be it Flying J or Love’s truck stops. He figures the extra cents per gallon is more about the facility. They all have Dec if needed. They always have a store plus a restaurant and showers which we used once. All of this costs money vs a small gas station that happens to have diesel too.

    Mark
    1 year ago

    I, too, have a discount card, and used Pilot/Flying J all the time. I did find, in general, their prices were lower than surrounding stations. That all stopped when Pilot/Flying J decided to remove all their American Flags so as not to offend some of the customers. As a retired Vet, that offended me, and I no longer choose to give them my American dollars!

    Mark
    1 year ago
    Reply to  Mark

    That deal with the flags was bogus and quickly got out of hand. A family member is a manager at a Flying J. Some of the flagpole across the country were old and weak and might have toppled over in a windstorm so the company was replacing a lot of them. Look it up on Snopes.

    TP
    1 year ago

    Anytime someone has to “advertise” their “Christianity”, such as “we are a Christian business”, that is sure sign to steer clear.
    The only advertising a true Christian does, is in the way they act and treat others.

    Milton Chambers
    1 year ago
    Reply to  TP

    Hear, hear!

    JR
    1 year ago
    Reply to  TP

    TP, indeed! He sounds like he was Christian during Sunday service only.

    Schake
    1 year ago
    Reply to  TP

    Touché, TP!

    I chose to spend my money with only those persons and businesses that are ethical, display equal-opportunity and non-discriminatory policies, and protect our planet’s environment (and thereby our children’s future) whenever I knowingly have a choice.

    I don’t care about their color or ancestry or religious beliefs. Good people (and bad) come in all flavors.

    Bob Godfrey
    1 year ago

    Over the years we have found that local truck stop facilities have better pricing and service than Pilot/Flying J so we try to avoid Pilot/FJ whenever possible. Since we require diesel and are 60′ long when we’re cruising the only advantage of using Pilot/FJ is that it is usually easy in/out.

    Pete
    1 year ago

    When I find the word devout connected with Christian it is a red light to me who they really are. My life did a 180 degree turn years ago when I became a true believer. It didn’t make me perfect but I have since strived to walk as Christ walked and to obey his command to love one another. The “devout” Christian is one in name only who smears those who truly love the Lord and what he stands for. Christians the world over have been a blessing in all kinds of situations but these guys always get all the press. It saddens me deeply to be even remotely connected to this man’s way of thinking.

    Brenda W.
    1 year ago

    I’m am appalled by his racial comments more so than his cheating his customers on fuel. Hope 12 Christmases away from your family is worth it. Happy Holidays “Christian”.

    Joe Allen
    1 year ago

    We just came back from a trip and have always found the truck stops in general, were priced higher than everyone else around them. Plus, if you didn’t put booties on, you were tracking the spilled fuel and grime back into your rig. I thought the stealing was in plain sight with their pricing! And yes, his crude racial comments are sad indeed. Christian or not, we should always be respectful of others and treat everyone as we would like to be treated!

    Dr4Film ----- Richard
    1 year ago

    I recall reading an older news article about how the owner was not giving the appropriate rebates back to the trucking companies. it had nothing to do with cheating an RVer’s.