Former Owner of Lee County Truck Driving School Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Pay Bribes to CDL Examiner
Montgomery, Alabama – On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, James F. Welburn, a resident of Columbus, Georgia and the former owner of American Truck Driving Academy, located in Lee County, Alabama, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery in relation to federal programs, announced United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr. and Regional Special Agent-In-Charge Todd Damiani, with the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.
According to court documents, 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.
Welburn will have a sentencing hearing scheduled in the next few months where he will face up to five years in prison. He also faces substantial monetary penalties and restitution.
“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.”
“The guilty plea of James Welburn related to charges of paying bribes for falsifying commercial driver license documents demonstrates our commitment to ensuring safety on the roads by requiring that only qualified individuals obtain CDLs,” stated Todd Damiani, Regional Special Agent-In-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Working with our Federal, State and local law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue our vigorous efforts to prevent and detect CDL fraud schemes which adversely affect the public trust throughout Alabama and elsewhere.”
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, with assistance from 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. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Thomas R. Govan, Jr. are prosecuting the case.