Former owner of Lee County truck driving school sentenced to probation

The former owner of a Lee County truck driving school charged with conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud in a commercial driver’s license cheating scheme has received probation.

James Welburn, 72, of Columbus, Georgia, the owner of American Truck Driving Academy, who pleaded guilty in February to conspiring to commit bribery in relation to federal programs, received a sentence of five years of probation and a $250,000 fine.

Also sentenced was Michael K. Jordan, 45, of Ellerslie, Georgia, a former commercial driver’s license examiner and employee of Columbus, Georgia. Jordan received a three year sentence of probation and a $10,250 fine.

Welburn was arrested July 2019 after being indicted by a federal grand jury.

According to court documents, Welburn paid Jordan $25 for each student he tested. In exchange for the bribes, the examiner agreed to test some students even though students had not possessed learner’s permits for at least 14 days, as required by federal regulations; tested more than five students in a single day, a violation of state law; and refrained from testing students on certain trucking maneuvers if they were unlikely to be able to perform the maneuvers.

“This bribery scheme created the risk that unqualified drivers would get behind the wheels of 18-wheelers, thus endangering motorists all over the country,” United States Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. of Middle District of Alabama said. “Moreover, this scheme compromised the integrity of the government licensing program. I hope that this case stands as an example that bribery of any form will not be tolerated.”

Regional Special Agent-in-Charge Todd Damiani said the sentencing handed down to the defendants illustrate that individuals who choose to circumvent requirements and regulations by attempting to fraudulently obtain a commercial driver license will not be tolerated.

“Our special agents and the criminal justice partners will continue to root out these characters whose dishonest actions ultimately compromise the safety of the traveling public.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General with assistance from the Georgia Department of Drivers Services, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Assistant U.S. attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Thomas R. Govan Jr. prosecuted the case.

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