Trucking school owner goes to prison for defrauding VA
October 7, 2020
•Land Line Staff
The operator of a California trucking school was sentenced this week to four years in prison after pleading guilty to leading a sophisticated scheme to bilk the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs out of more than $4 million in education benefits.
Emmit Marshall, 53, of Woodland Hills, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who also ordered him to pay $4.1 million in restitution. Marshall pleaded guilty in July 2019 to five counts of wire fraud.
At the hearing, Judge Wilson stated that this “was a very serious fraud on the government,” which involved “calculated, criminal acts that cannot be condoned,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Marshall is the owner and president of the Chatsworth-based Alliance School of Trucking. He and a co-defendant, the school’s vice president Robert Waggoner, 57, of Canyon Country, recruited eligible veterans to take trucking classes paid under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The school was certified to offer classes under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including a 160-hour Tractor Trailer & Safety class and a 600-hour Select Driver Development Program.
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA paid tuition and fees directly to the school at which veterans were enrolled. The VA also paid a housing allowance to veterans enrolled full-time in an approved program, and, in some cases, the VA paid for books and supplies for veterans’ benefit.
From July 2011 to April 2015, Marshall and Waggoner convinced more than 100 veterans to participate by telling them they were entitled to VA education benefits even if they did not attend classes.
Despite not taking classes, the veterans who agreed to join the scheme accepted education benefits for housing while the school collected the benefits for tuition, resulting in a total loss to the VA of at least $4.1 million.
“(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 their sentencing memorandum.
Prosecutors also said Marshall resorted to occasionally using veterans’ personal information to sign them up for benefits, forging signatures, sometimes without the veterans’ permission.
In an attempt to conceal the overall scheme and the forgeries of student enrollment paperwork, Marshall directed the veteran-students to lie to VA investigators and ordered the destruction of school paperwork by co-schemers.
Waggoner pleaded guilty on Feb. 24 to five counts of wire fraud. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 15, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 100 years in federal prison. LL