Local Trucking Co. Owner Charged with Fraud

Marlon Danner allegedly paid out $185,000 to his drivers as a settlement for previously underpaying them-and he then fraudulently obtained more than $120,000 of the funds by telling the drivers that the payment was a mistake.

Marlon Danner, who operates a couple of trucking companies in South St. Paul, has been charged by federal prosecutors for talking his drivers into handing over state-mandated settlement money that they rightfully deserved.

Danner, a 66-year-old man from Inver Grove Heights, operates Danner, Inc., and Bull Dog Leasing, Inc., which supply trucks and drivers to road construction projects throughout Minnesota.

In 2008 and 2009, drivers working for Danner's companies worked on a project that was funded in part by federal money-which meant that Danner was contractually required to pay certain truck-rental rates to the drivers he hired for the project, according to prosecutors.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDot) investigated Danner's compliance with the mandated truck-rental rate and discovered that he had underpaid his drivers.

In February, Danner reached a settlement with MnDot and agreed to dole out more than $185,000 to about 27 truckers to make up for the underpayment.

According to the indictment, Danner wrote checks from his companies and gave them to MnDot, which then mailed the checks to the drivers. Investigators told each driver to contact them “if you have any trouble cashing this check or someone attempts to coerce you to return any portion.”

In late February, Danner allegedly “began a campaign” to obtain the settlement money. Investigators say he called many of the drivers and told them that they should give the money back, telling some that MnDot had made a mistake.

Drivers who called Danner's office were told to write checks to various other entities owned by Danner-and many received falsified receipts indicating that the checks were written for fuel and other expenses. By early June, Danner had allegedly obtained more than $120,000 of the $185,000 paid out in the settlement.

He faces six counts of wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, and one count making a false statement.

“Mr. Danner plans to plead not guilty and fight the charges in court,” John Lundquist of Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., who is representing Danner, wrote in an e-mailed statement to Twin Cities Business on Thursday.

If convicted, Danner faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years on each wire and mail fraud count, and five years on the false statement charge, according to Minnesota's U.S. Attorney's Office.