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This week as the Pilot Flying J diesel rebate fraud trial resumed in a U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee, jurors heard former executives from the company using racist language and even included a song from county singer David Allan Coe.
— Jamie Satterfield (@jamiescoop) January 10, 2018
Former Pilot Flying J president Mark Hazelwood and three other former employees are standing trial in a federal court on charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud following a 2013 federal raid of company headquarters. The alleged scheme involved Pilot Flying J employees making false promises to deliver fuel rebates to truckers who they believed were too unsophisticated to notice that they were being conned. Fourteen of the eighteen people charged in the matter have pled guilty.
On Secret Tapes: Racial Slurs, Profane Language, David Allan Coe Sing-Along
On Wednesday, Knox News reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilto played portions of a secret recording made by former Pilot Flying J executive Vincent Greco, who was working as a mole for the F.B.I. and I.R.S. The recording was captured in October of 2012 at a company meeting in Rockwood.
In the recording, you can hear Hazelwood ask “Where’s our greasy (racial slur) song?” Court records show that former salesperson Arnie Ralenkotter responded to Hazelwood’s request by asking “How’s that sensitivity training coming?” While the David Allan Coe song plays during the recording , you can reportedly hear Hazelwood and other Pilot Flying J employees singing along.
In the recordings Hazelwood and the other executives also used racist or profane language to refer to Cleveland Browns fans, residents of the city of Cleveland, residents of the city of Oakland, California, and members of Pilot’s Board of Directors.
Judge Explains Why He Let Jury Hear Racist Recording
U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier has called the language used in the secret recordings “vile” and has kept the jury from hearing portions of the tapes.
Though the racist language used in the recordings does not directly relate to the diesel fuel rebate fraud scheme, the court allowed prosecutors to play the tapes as a response to the defense’s argument that Hazelwood was too smart to engage in activity that would have hurt the company that he worked for.
Collier explained his decision to allow the jury to hear the recordings: “If it became known the president of Pilot engaged in vile, despicable, inflammatory racial epithets against African Americans, this could lead to boycotts and protests.”
Pilot Flying J issued a statement denouncing the statements made in the recordings: “This kind of behavior is reprehensible, not tolerated, nor reflective of the guiding principles of Pilot Flying J … No current team member of Pilot Flying J was present or participated in this incident.”
Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam has denied any knowledge of the diesel fuel rebate scheme and has not been charged.