The owner of a Chatsworth, California-based truck driving school pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud in federal court on July 29, admitting he participated in a scam to bilk the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) out of more than $4 million.
Court documents allege that Emmit Marshall, 52, owner of the Alliance School of Trucking (AST), along with his co-defendant Robert Waggoner, 56, who served as the school’s director, recruited eligible veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Marshall and Waggoner convinced veterans to enroll in their school by telling them “they could collect housing and other fees from the VA without attending the programs,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Marshall told FreightWaves on July 31 that his trucking school is still open for business, but is no longer accepting veterans as students.
Knowing that the vast majority of veterans enrolled at AST did not intend to attend any portion of the programs the trucking school offered, which included a 160-hour Tractor Trailer and Safety class and a 600-hour Select Driver Development program, Marshall and Waggoner “created and submitted fraudulent enrollment certifications,” according to Marshall’s plea agreement.
Marshall and Waggoner also created student files that contained “bogus documents,” prosecutors allege.
Once AST became aware of the investigation, Marshall, Waggoner and others at the trucking school “removed fraudulent documents from student files, and Marshall later ordered that these files be destroyed,” Marshall’s plea agreement states.
Over a four-year period, court documents claim the VA paid AST approximately $2.3 million in tuition and fee payments for veterans who didn’t attend classes. The VA also paid around $1.9 million in educational benefits directly to veterans who did not attend classes at AST.
Marshall is scheduled to be sentenced on November 18. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 100 years in federal prison. Waggoner, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go to trial on February 25, 2020.