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The owner of a Lee County truck driving school charged with conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud in a commercial driver’s license cheating scheme pleaded guilty in federal court this week.

James Welburn, 72, of Columbus, Georgia, the owner of American Truck Driving Academy, entered the plea on a charge of conspiring to commit bribery in relation to federal programs.

A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

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

The indictment charges that he bribed a commercial driver’s license examiner in exchange for the examiner showing preferential treatment to American Truck Driving students when they took CDL exams. Specifically, Welburn paid the examiner $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.

The examiner also agreed to give American Truck Driving students “the benefit of the doubt” on all road tests.

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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