The owner of a California trucking school was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday for a GI Bill scam which drew more than $4 million in fraudulent payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs over four years.
Emmit Marshall, 53, pled guilty to the charges in July 2019 but was not sentenced until this week. During his sentencing hearing, the judge blasted Marshall’s actions as “very serious fraud” and “calculated, criminal acts that cannot be condoned.”
Court officials said he used the Alliance School of Trucking to recruit veterans for truck driving classes but provided no actual education benefits. Instead, he collected the tuition money and some veterans received housing stipends under the post-9/11 GI Bill program, even though none attended classes.
School owner allegedly recruited veterans to enroll and told them not to show in order to pocket GI bill tuition.
In some cases, Marshall used veterans' personal information to sign them up for the fake courses without permission and forged signatures.
The scheme ran from July 2011 to April 2015. When VA officials began investigating the suspicious activity, school officials encouraged the “students” to lie to department staff and worked to destroy records of the fraud.
Prosecutors said the scheme netted about $1 million for Marshall personally, money he used “for jewelry, a cruise, a trip to Hawaii, property taxes on his [California] residence, purchase of a Ford F-150 and purchase of semi-tractor trailers for a new business.”
Thomson's Virginia-based company steered prime contracts to others who shared in profits, wrote him personal checks.
Marshall’s co-defendant in the case, trucking school vice president Robert Waggoner, pled guilty to similar charges in February and is expected to be sentenced next March.
Department of Justice officials did not say whether any of the veterans who participated in the scheme will face potential criminal charges.
The fraud case comes just a few weeks after an Oregon businessman was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for soliciting more than $4 million in illegal kickbacks as part of a scheme involving contracting work focused on wounded veterans and troops.
In that case, court records showed that Brodie Shaw Thomson created fake business plans and hid side payments on numerous contracts for his own personal gain.