LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The owner of a San Fernando Valley trucking school has been sentenced to four years behind bars for siphoning more than $4 million from the US Department of Veteran Affairs in GI Bill funds for classes that veterans never attended.
Emmit Marshall, 53, was also ordered to pay $4.1 million in restitution, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
The Woodland Hills resident pleaded guilty last year to five federal counts of wire fraud.
In sentencing Marshall, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson called it “a very serious fraud on the government” which involved “calculated, criminal acts that cannot be condoned.”
Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Marshall be allowed to serve his prison time in home detention as a condition of probation so he can care for his children.
Co-defendant Robert Waggoner, 57, of Canyon Country also pleaded guilty to five wire fraud counts and is expected to be sentenced in March.
Marshall was owner and president of the Alliance School of Trucking, and Waggoner was a director at the Chatsworth school.
Marshall recruited veterans to take trucking classes paid under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. AST was certified to offer classes that included a 160-hour Tractor Trailer & Safety class and a 600-hour Select Driver Development Program.
Marshall told the veterans they wouldn’t have to attend the classes, but could still collect housing and books fees supplied by the VA, while tuition payments were disbursed directly to the school, according to prosecutors
Knowing that the vast majority of veterans enrolling at AST did not intend to attend any portion of the programs, Marshall and Waggoner created and submitted bogus enrollment certifications and student files that contained counterfeit documents, court documents show.
From the end of 2011 through April 2015, as a result of the scheme, the VA paid AST about $2.35 million in tuition and fee payments for veterans who purportedly attended approved programs at AST, according to the April 2017 indictment.
During that same period, the VA also paid roughly $1.96 million in education benefits directly to veterans who purportedly attended approved programs at AST, according to federal prosecutors.