February 10, 2016 12:00 PM, EST
Profile: Who Is Indicted Ex-Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood?
Hazelwood (left), Hardin via
Mark Hazelwood, the former president of Pilot Flying J now under federal indictment for fraud and witness tampering, had risen steadily through the ranks of the $30 billion company that is the largest truck-stop chain in the United States. He was known to use his business acumen and charm to help make a lot of money for the company.

Hazelwood, 57, joined Pilot in 1988 as vice president of sales and development, was promoted to executive vice president in 1998 and president in 2012. From 2004 to 2013, he also oversaw Pilot’s direct sales division.

According to court documents, in early 2013, Hazelwood approved a biographical description that labeled him as “a lead visionary and strategist for Pilot Flying J in the areas of sales, real estate, development, mergers and acquisitions, and facility revenue.”

His compensation was tied to the profitability of diesel fuel sales from all of the trucking company accounts managed by Pilot’s direct sales division, according to the indictment.

Hazelwood left Pilot in May 2014, just over a year after the company’s Knoxville, Tennessee, headquarters was raided by FBI and IRS agents looking for documents that would prove the company was conducting a complex scam, shorting motor carriers millions of dollars in diesel-fuel price rebates since 2008.

Now Hazelwood — most recently CEO of Professional Driver Agency, a Brentwood, Tennessee, company he founded that assists truck drivers in finding jobs with motor carriers — is in for what could be the fight of his life.

Hazelwood and seven other company executives were arraigned in a Knoxville courtroom Feb. 9 on federal mail and wire fraud charges.

Prior to Hazelwood’s arraignment, 10 company executives had entered into plea bargain agreements that require them to cooperate with investigators. They have yet to be sentenced.

Pilot already has reached a $92 million settlement with federal authorities and an $84.9 million settlement to a class of as many as 5,500 customers who were shorted of their fuel rebates.

Hazelwood entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment. Neither he nor his high-profile Houston defense attorney, Rusty Hardin, returned phone messages seeking comment. Several employees contacted at Hazelwood’s firm declined comment.

Although even prosecutors caution that indictments are not proof of criminal wrongdoing, the charging document is laced with a number of serious allegations.

Hazelwood is alleged to have attempted to “further the conspiracy” in a meeting in Orlando, Florida, with members of his sales team by suggesting that they needed to keep a list of which customers were paying attention to their rebate amounts and which were not.

Pilot had “two-tiered customers,” he told the staff, calling them “customer A and customer B.”