Federal authorities say that the former owner of an Alabama truck driver school has pled guilty to charges related to paying bribes for preferential treatment for his students.
On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, James F. Welburn pled guilty to a charge of conspiring to commit bribery in relation to federal programs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Alabama.
Welburn is the former owner of the American Truck Driving Academy, located in Lee County, Alabama.
From a news release describing the alleged CDL bribery scheme:
Welburn paid bribes to a commercial driver’s license (CDL) examiner in exchange for the examiner showing preferential treatment to American Truck Driving Academy students when those students took CDL driving exams. Specifically, Welburn paid the examiner $25 per student tested by the examiner. In exchange for these payments, the examiner agreed to do things like: (1) test students even though students had not possessed learner’s permits for at least 14 days, as required by federal regulations; (2) test more than five students in a single day, in violation of state law; and (3) refrain from testing students on certain trucking maneuvers if the students were unlikely to be able to perform the maneuvers.
“In putting profit ahead of ensuring that his students could safely operate commercial vehicles, Mr. Welburn placed thousands of individuals at danger,” noted United States Attorney Franklin. “It is my hope that as a result of this case, our roadways—in Alabama and across the country—will become somewhat safer places.”
Welburn could face up to five years in prison in addition to fines and restitution.
Agencies assisting with the investigation include the United States Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, the Georgia Department of Drivers Services, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.