The owner of a San Fernando Valley trucking school and the man who ran it are both facing federal wire fraud charges in connection with a scheme authorities claim swindled over $4 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Defendant Robert Waggoner, 54, of Canyon Country, Calif., was arrested Thursday, April 13, at his residence by special agents with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General, according to a news release issued Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California.
The second defendant Emmit Marshall, 50, of Woodland Hills, Calif., has agreed to self-surrender on Tuesday, April 18, the release states.
Both men were named in a nine-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 6. The indictment alleges they bilked the Department of Veterans Affairs out of well over $4 million in tuition and other payments after falsely certifying that veterans had attended classes, when they never had. Both are accused of nine counts each of wire fraud. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count.
Marshall was owner and president of the Chatsworth-based Alliance School of Trucking (AST), and Waggoner was a director at the school.
From the end of 2011 through April 2015, as a result of the fraudulent scheme, the VA paid AST approximately $2,351,658 in tuition and fee payments for veterans who purportedly attended approved programs at AST, according to the indictment. During that same period, the VA also paid approximately $1,957,715 in education benefits directly to veterans who purportedly attended approved programs at AST.
“Fraud schemes, particularly those involving schooling for veterans, compromise the system designed to help veterans after they complete their service,” acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown said in the news release. “Taxpayers who fund these programs also suffer when benefit programs are subject to waste, abuse and fraud.”
According to the indictment, the two defendants and another person involved in the scheme recruited eligible veterans to take trucking classes paid under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. AST 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.
Pursuant to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA paid tuition and fees directly to the school at which the veteran was enrolled. The VA also paid a housing allowance to the veteran enrolled full-time in an approved program, and, in some cases, the VA paid a books-and-supplies benefit directly to the veteran.
According to the indictment, Marshall and Waggoner recruited eligible veterans to enroll at AST by telling the veterans they could collect housing and other fees from the VA without attending the programs.
Knowing that the vast majority of veterans enrolling at AST did not intend to attend any portion of those programs, Marshall and Waggoner created and submitted fraudulent enrollment certifications, according to the indictment. They also created student files that contained bogus documents, according to the indictment.
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