The owner of a California truck driving school was sentenced to prison on fraud charges for a scheme to steal millions from the U.S. government.

On Monday, October 5, 53 year old Emmit Marshall was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Marshall was also ordered to pay $4.1 million in restitution. He previously pled guilty to five counts of wire fraud.

Authorities accused Marshall and his co-defendant, 57 year old Robert Waggoner, of “leading a sophisticated scheme to defraud the United States Department of Veterans Affairs out of more than $4 million in education benefits involving over 100 veterans who did not attend classes” at Chatsworth, California-based Alliance School of Trucking (AST). 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office describes the scheme:

 Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA paid tuition and fees directly to the school at which veterans were enrolled. The VA also paid a housing allowance to veterans enrolled full-time in an approved program, and, in some cases, the VA paid for books and supplies for veterans’ benefit.

From July 2011 to April 2015, Marshall and Waggoner convinced more than 100 veterans to participate by telling them they were entitled to VA education benefits, even if they did not attend classes. Despite not taking classes, the veterans who agreed to join the scheme accepted education benefits for housing while AST collected the benefits for tuition, resulting in a total loss to the VA of at least $4.1 million.

In addition, Marshall resorted to occasionally using veterans’ personal information to sign them up for benefits, forging signatures, sometimes without the veterans’ permission. Finally, in an attempt to obfuscate the overall scheme and the forgeries of student enrollment paperwork, Marshall directed the veteran-students to lie to VA investigators and ordered the destruction of AST paperwork by co-schemers.

Prosectors say that Marshall kept nearly $1 million for himself, which he used to fund lavish purchases including a cruise, jewelry, a trip to Hawaii, a a Ford F-150, and the “purchase of semi-tractor trailers for a new business.”

Waggoner also pled guilty five counts of wire fraud earlier this year. His sentencing is scheduled for March 15, 2021, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 100 years in federal prison.