An example of a big rig, not the one from the story.
File photo.

An operator of a San Fernando Valley trucking school was arrested Thursday by federal authorities for allegedly bilking 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 had not.

Robert Waggoner, 54, of Canyon Country, was taken into custody at his home by special agents with the Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General.

The second defendant named in a nine-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury — Emmit Marshall, 50, of Woodland Hills — has agreed to self-surrender Tuesday.

The case was announced Thursday afternoon after a U.S. magistrate judge unsealed the indictment during Waggoner’s arraignment.

Marshall was owner and president of the Alliance School of Trucking, and Waggoner was a director at the school.

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 that included a 160-hour Tractor Trailer & Safety class and a 600-hour Select Driver Development Program.

Pursuant to the 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. From the end of 2011 through April 2015, as a result of the fraudulent 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 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.

“The VA offers generous benefits to veterans who have put their lives on the line to safeguard America,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “Fraud schemes, particularly those involving schooling for veterans, compromise the system designed to help veterans after they complete their service.”

“Taxpayers who fund these programs also suffer when benefit programs are subject to waste, abuse and fraud,” she said.

The indictment against Marshall and Waggoner charges each defendant with nine counts of wire fraud. If they are convicted, each defendant would face up to 20 years in federal prison for each count.

–City News Service

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