Pilot Flying J names new VP of sales in wake of fuel-rebate investigation

KNOXVILLE - A top executive at Pilot Flying J who has been linked to a fuel-rebate fraud scandal has been replaced.

In a recent letter to customers, Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam said the company has named a new vice president of sales.

The letter was dated July 12, and outlines new details about the company's response to an ongoing federal investigation that has already netted guilty pleas from five employees.

Haslam's letter said six members of the company's sales team have resigned or were terminated, while three more are on administrative leave.

The letter didn't name those employees but Pilot's former vice president of sales, John Freeman, was featured prominently in a government affidavit made public in April after agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raided the company's West Knoxville headquarters and other sites.

Transcripts filed with the affidavit showed Freeman discussing the alleged scheme, often in profane language, including a situation in which Nashville trucking company Western Express learned it had not been getting the full rebate it was due from Pilot.

According to the transcripts, which were secretly recorded by a "confidential human source," Freeman described how he offered to cut the company a check, but a Western official instead suggested that Pilot buy an airplane from him.

An attorney for Freeman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Haslam's letter said David Hughes has been named the new vice president of sales. Hughes joined Pilot last year and previously worked for Covenant Transportation Group in Chattanooga.

The letter also said that Scott Nelson, formerly the president and CEO of Premier Trailer Leasing Solutions, has been hired as a vice president and that Dave Rewers will be in charge of the inside sales department. The letter said Rewers until recently was group vice president for fleet sales at Fleet One LLC, in Nashville.

The letter said Steve Vanderink has moved from his role as a division director of operations to Northeast/Midwest director of sales.

The letter said Pilot's audit team completed an initial manual diesel rebate review on June 30, and that the company has sent letters to all of its manual diesel rebate customers.

"Those accounts who had a discrepancy in the customer's favor received checks for the amounts of the discrepancies, plus interest," the letter said, adding that "numerous" accounts had a zero balance and some accounts owed money to Pilot.

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