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Ex-trucking school director sentenced for role in defrauding VA of $4.1M

Trucking school owner also sentenced in scheme

Former CDL school director Robert Waggoner was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for siphoning more than $4 million in veterans’ education benefits. Photo: Alliance School of Trucking

The former director of a California-based truck driving school was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on Monday for his role in bilking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) out of more than $4 million.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson also ordered Robert Waggoner, 59, of Canyon Country, California, to serve three years of supervised release once he finishes his sentence. 

Waggoner pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud in February 2020 after initially entering a not guilty plea following his indictment in April 2017.

His co-defendant, Emmit Marshall, 54, aka “Amit Marshall,” of Woodland Hills, California, owned the Alliance School of Trucking, headquartered in Chatsworth, California. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison in October 2020 and ordered to pay $4.1 million in restitution. 

Marshall pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud in July 2019, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

AST has since closed but was still operating in late July 2019 when FreightWaves spoke to Marshall by telephone. At that time, Marshall said his CDL school was still open for business but was no longer accepting veterans as students. 

Image courtesy of Google

What happened?

According to court documents, Waggoner and Marshall recruited eligible veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and convinced over 100 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.

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.

Federal prosecutors claim the VA paid AST approximately $2.3 million in tuition and fee payments for veterans who didn’t attend classes over a four-year period. The VA also paid around $1.9 million in educational benefits directly to veterans who did not attend classes at AST.

“[Marshall] profited most from this conduct, pocketing nearly $1 million himself, which he used for jewelry, a cruise, a trip to Hawaii, property taxes on his Woodland Hills residence, purchase of a Ford F-150 and purchase of semi-tractor trailers for a new business,” prosecutors wrote in his sentencing memorandum.

It’s unclear whether any of the veterans receiving the fraudulent benefits were charged or convicted. 

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]