Trucking Firm, Owners, Drivers Sentenced in Conspiracy Case
USDOT Office of the Inspector General
February 19, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 19, 1999
Contact: Jeff Nelligan
The owners of a Hartsville, S.C.-based trucking company and two of its drivers have been sentenced for a scheme that put unqualified drivers behind the wheels of commercial trucks, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General announced today.
John E. and Linda M. Blackwell, owners of the firm Blackwell Auto Brokers, and two drivers -- William L. Watford and Joe H. Eddins, Jr. -- were sentenced Feb. 4 in federal court in Florence, S.C. Punishment also was levied against the firm as a corporation. The defendants had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.
Testimony revealed that in 1996 and 1997, the Blackwells encouraged Watford and Eddins to drive for the firm, despite knowing the truckers were not qualified to do it. The Blackwells also knowingly allowed Watford and others to falsify identification and other records checked by trucking regulators, and the Blackwells provided false information about Watford to insurance companies.
Both John and Linda Blackwell were ordered to pay a fine of $2,000, serve five years' probation, and make restitution of $3,362 to their insurer. John Blackwell must serve six months in a halfway house. Their corporation was fined $12,000 and placed on two years' probation.
Watford was sentenced to four months' home confinement and five years' probation, while Eddins must perform 100 hours of community service and serve five years' probation.
The case was investigated by DOT's Office of Inspector General, by the South Carolina State Transport Police and by DOT"s Office of Motor Carriers.
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