A Minnesota trucking company operator faces 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding owner-operators out of back pay he had agreed to pay them in a 2010 settlement.
On Feb. 17, U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Schiltz sentenced Marlon Louis Danner, owner of Danner Inc. and Bulldog Leasing of South St. Paul, for one count of wire fraud. Schiltz also ordered the 66-year-old Inver Grove Heights resident pay a $50,000 fine, $126,405 in restitution and serve one year of supervised release.
In 2008 and 2009, Danner supplied drivers for a federally funded Minnesota highway reconstruction project, but state investigators later determined he underpaid 27 truckers more than $185,000.
In 2010, Danner reached a settlement agreement with Minnesota’s transportation department. He provided $185,000 to the department for it to distribute to the truckers. However, Danner immediately contacted many of these drivers and told them the DOT had been mistaken and instructed them, implicitly or explicitly, to return the funds to him upon receipt.
That spring, many of the owner-operators contacted his office manager for information on how to return the money. On Danner’s instructions, the office manager directed them to make payment in the settlement amount to companies controlled by Danner. The drivers then received false receipts that indicated the money was for fuel, rent or shop repairs.
By June 3, Danner had received more than $120,000 of the settlement he had provided to the department. The investigation was conducted by FBI, Minnesota Labor Compliance Units and U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.