The owner of a San Fernando Valley trucking school pleaded guilty Monday to siphoning more than $4 million from the Department of Veteran Affairs in GI Bill funds for classes that veterans never attended.
Emmit Marshall, 52, of Woodland Hills, entered his plea to five federal counts of wire fraud, which in total carries a potential decades-long prison sentence. But in exchange for Marshall’s guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to seek a prison term of no more than 10 years and payment of $4.3 million in restitution, according to court records.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson set sentencing for Nov. 18.
Co-defendant Robert Waggoner, 56, of Canyon Country, faces trial in February in downtown Los Angeles.
Marshall was owner and president of the Alliance School of Trucking, and Waggoner was a director at the Chatsworth school.
According to his plea agreement, 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, federal prosecutors said.
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, according to the indictment, which also alleges they created student files that contained counterfeit documents.
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 the U.S. Department of Justice.