Meek and contrite, disgraced former Arrow Trucking CEO Doug Pielsticker spoke Friday to U.S. District Chief Judge Gregory Frizzell.
Pielsticker, who pleaded guilty months ago to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit tax fraud, apologized for his actions: First, he apologized to his family, whose longstanding reputation in Tulsa was sullied as Arrow Trucking went down the drain.
Second, he apologized to the court. Lastly he apologized to the employees of Arrow Trucking, hundreds of whom were left stranded across the country two weeks before Christmas in 2009 when the company was shuttered.
“I’m devastated by this … I’m deeply sorry,” Pielsticker said. “I’m a different person that I was six years ago.”
His pleas failed to sway the court. Frizzell sentenced the former Arrow Trucking boss to 90 months in the Bureau of Prisons, as well as ordering Pielsticker to pay more than $20 million in restitution.
U.S. Attorney Danny Williams said following the hearing that defendants in similar cases usually serve about 85 percent of their sentence in prison.
Arrow was in deep financial trouble in 2009, using dollars borrowed from a GE asset-based lending line to stay afloat. That credit line was transferred to Transportation Alliance Bank. Meanwhile Pielsticker was living lavishly, spending an estimated — and disputed — $1.2 million in that timeframe on personal expenses he billed to the company. A former employee said he believed Pielsticker’s spending was much higher than that figure.
Pielsticker’s sentence came down Friday afternoon, following several hours of testimony Thursday in U.S. District Chief Judge Gregory Frizzell’s courtroom. During that testimony, former Arrow Trucking CFO Jonathan Moore said he believed that Pielsticker’s personal spending, estimated by attorneys to be around $1.2 million range, could have directly caused the trucking company’s downfall.
Moore, who is awaiting his own sentencing for fraud he committed while at Arrow Trucking, said he believed the $1.2 million figure was “grossly underestimated.” Reports of outlandish personal spending by Pielsticker would seem to back up that claim, and prosecutors have alleged that his lifestyle directly contributed to the business’s downfall.
The sentencing was expected to take place Thursday, but Frizzell eventually decided that he need more time to come to a decision. Prosecutors had recommended something in the range of 6 1/2 to 8 years, and Pielsticker’s attorney argued for a lesser sentence because of health issues facing the former Arrow Trucking boss.
“We believe that justice was served today and the citizens of Tulsa can feel comfortable that he has been punished adequately for the crimes he has committed,” Williams said.
Pielsticker’s attorney, Paul DeMuro, had argued that a lengthy prison sentence might be fatal to his client, who suffers from heart failure and has had “10-12 events” in the last year where his heart has failed. Pielsticker has only survived, DeMuro said, thanks to a 19-year-old electronic device implanted in his heart that badly needs to be replaced.
Frizzell said that the Bureau of Prisons had assured him they could adequately care for Pielsticker once he’s imprisoned. However, Frizzell gave Pielsticker until Jan. 7 to turn himself in, which should give him time to get the unit replaced.
Frizzell also noted, though, that Pielsticker’s sentencing had twice been pushed back to allow for him to receive that surgery, something he had not yet done.
Friday’s sentencing was the end of a long public decline for Pielsticker, who by all accounts did not hide his enormous wealth — driving pricey vehicles and spending thousands on meals, drinks, clothes and luxury goods.
While awaiting sentencing, Pielsticker apparently drove a car for Uber while living in Dallas, before the company removed him from the service because of the criminal charges he faced.
Pielsticker did not speak with the media as he left the courtroom, but DeMuro said he hoped the sentencing could begin “a new chapter” in the saga.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” DeMuro said. “We hope that this signals a new chapter in Doug’s life and the end of the old chapter, and we hope that you in the media and in the public can find a way in your heart to forgive and move on and turn this into a positive. That’s what we’re going to do and that’s what Doug has done for the last six years.”
Pielsticker, asked if he had anything to say to former Arrow Trucking employees, did not respond.