The executive assistant to the vice president of sales at Pilot Flying J told a Chattanooga jury on Monday that she never expected to be interviewed by the FBI on the front porch of her Knoxville home, nursing a one-month-old and with her other two young children running around in the yard.
Katy Bibee, who worked directly for an expected star witness for the prosecution, said she was off on maternity leave at the time of the April 15, 2013, raid at the Haslam-owned company.
She said she talked with two FBI agents for about 45 minutes before her father-in-law showed up and put a stop to it. However, she said she decided that evening to go to Pilot headquarters and give a further statement.
"They told me the others were cooperating and giving statements also," she told the jury at the Federal Courthouse.
Standing trial are former Pilot president Mark Hazelwood, national sales director Scott Wombold and regional sales accountants Karen Mann and Heather Jones.
Ms. Bibee said she was almost a defendant herself, but she agreed to plead guilty just this past July to mail and wire fraud. The mother of children 9, 7 and 4 said she was told she faces up to 20 years in prison.
The witness said she got a job not long out of college as the accountant for John "Stick" Freeman - a key figure in the case also said by one witness to have been close with CEO Jimmy Haslam. She said one in she had with the company was that her husband graduated from high school "with a Haslam daughter." Another was that Jay Stinnett, a regional sales director for Pilot, had coached her husband in football.
She went to work for Pilot when she was 24 - just after getting married and coming back from her honeymoon.
Ms. Bibee said, "I loved the people I worked with. It was very fast-paced and demanding. I thought I was very blessed to have the job."
Asked about Freeman, whose salty language fills a number of transcripts in the case, she said, "I thought he was a character" and a "storyteller."
She added, "He was never anything but kind and good to my family."
She said Freeman was "very high strung. He wanted it done right."
Of Ms. Mann, she said, "She was just like a mom to me. She is the same age as my mother. She got me through all my pregnancies."
Ms. Bibee, questioned about her going along with trucking customers not getting their promised discounts, said, "It was just understood that we did what we were asked to and as fast as we could."
She said, "There's no reason to lie to the customer. It was one of those things - I was not thinking obviously."
Ms. Bibee, who has also been battling cancer after getting the diagnosis in July 2013, said, "Things felt uncomfortable at times. There were definitely some things I was asked to do that were wrong. But I was not thinking that I had broken the law."
She added, "Looking back, I wish I had said something. But I never asked why. I thought - I work for Pilot. They do everything good for the community."
Prosecutor Trey Hamilton showed Ms. Bibee a Dec. 9, 2008, Freeman email in which he said Pilot was "eliminating discounts within our system. The customer does not need to know the numbers." The plan was to manually send out rebate checks each month to certain less-sophisticated, smaller trucking firms.
Ms. Bibee said a certain discount was promised to BP Express, but a lower figure was paid out. She said many of the smaller firms did not ask for detailed information about the discounts.
By not paying the promised discount, Pilot was making about $4,000 more a month on BP Express, it was stated.
The same trick was pulled on Mike Queen and his Queen Transport, the witness said. She said Mr. Queen called "begging for his extra penny" of discount. She said Freeman told her to tell him that "the extra penny is fine," but Freeman instructed her, "Don't change the deal."
In another email, Freeman belittled trucking company executive "Little Man" Don Gregory of the Allied firm, saying during his whole visit with him he "kept his head in his Blackberry."
Ms. Bibee emailed Freeman, "Let's remember that when it's time for his rebate check this month."
Freeman replied, "SMF." She said that stood for "Stupid Mother F-----."
Another regional account executive who has pleaded guilty, Holly Radford, also discussed the situation with Queen Transport. She said Freeman said of Mike Queen, "He's crazy and thinks he's getting a deal. He's not getting what he thinks."
She said Jay Stinnett reminded that all those in on the scheme to pay the lowered amount "need to sing off the same hymnal."
That did not happen later with Mike Queen as a new Pilot salesman blurted that he was suppose to be getting a much higher rate. J.W. Johnson made the admission to Queen after noting that "this guy can talk forever." Johnson afterward reported, "I'm going to hold off in the back track to make up something. Oh, crap."
Ms. Radford was shown another email where Freeman discussed having "wiggle room" and "saying one thing and doing another."
The tactic was used in a big way on Chip Hall and RWH Trucking as Stinnett instructed that the discount be cost plus 20. Ms. Radford said he wrote out TWENTY so it was not misunderstood as cost plus two. The firm had been promised cost plus zero.
The sales staff compiled a chart that showed savings to RWH Trucking, but also had a column for savings to Pilot by cheating the firm. Ms. Radford said it showed "that we should have been sending them $64,521 a month, but we actually were sending $32,540. We saved almost $32,000 a month. That's how much we shorted them."
Shown the "savings" report, office manager Vicki Borden, commented to Freeman and Stinnett, "You are the best."
However, Freeman did have some concern about compiling documents with some possibly incriminating information and sharing it with several staff members.
Stinnett commented about Ms. Radford, "Hell, she does them and she knows."
The witness said one document showed the company cheating another trucking firm out of $115,000 in rebates it had been promised.
Stinnett called it "a good number - a $115,000 screw."
Ms. Radford said she was present at a sales break-out meeting in November 2012 when regional sales director Brian Mosher was describing how to cheat trucking companies. She said Wombold was in the room and "he agreed with the system and what he was trying to teach us."
She said Ms. Jones was there too and commented that "very few trucking companies actually ask for backup - fewer than 10 percent."