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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J's former president is the target of a federal investigation linked to allegations of fraud in the locally based company's fuel rebate program.
In early August, Mark Hazelwood received a target letter, the official form federal prosecutors send to let an individual know they are the target of an investigation and that prosecutors have substantial evidence linking them to the crime, according to WBIR. The station attributes the report to multiple sources.
Hazelwood left Pilot Flying J abruptly in May, as CSNews Online previously reported. He is the highest ranking current or former employee connected to the alleged scheme.
John Freeman, the company's former vice president of sales, received a target letter last year as did Karen Crutchman, a senior accounts manager based out of the company's Knoxville headquarters. CEO Jimmy Haslam has not received one, according to his attorney Tom Dillard, the news station reported.
Target letters are often the last step before an indictment. Hazelwood, who has not been charged in the criminal probe, hired Knoxville lawyer and U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Ball and Texas attorney Rusty Hardin. Both Hardin and Ball declined to comment to the news station Tuesday.
The federal investigation into Pilot Flying J culminated in a raid on the company's Knoxville headquarters in April 2013.
Pilot Flying J has cooperated with the federal investigation. In July, the company reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office that will allow it to avoid prosecution.
The agreement, titled a "Criminal Enforcement Agreement," is neither an indictment nor a finding of guilt. It clearly states the company will not be prosecuted under any current circumstances so long as the company complies with the terms of the agreement. However, individuals may still be prosecuted, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Over the two-year term of the agreement, in addition to paying the monetary penalty, which the government has set at $92 million consistent with the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the company also commits to keep the government advised of the status of its internal compliance program, which it voluntarily initiated immediately following the execution of the warrant last year.
Pilot Flying J is a family-owned business that operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.