Since our country was founded, farmers have been the backbone of the United States. They plant and harvest their crops with the intention of selling them at a profit; and whether the buyer is the local grocery store or a restaurant chain across the globe, farmers understand that tough times are only a bad storm or a bad harvest away. To help farmers guard against the economic repercussions of a potential crop failure created by a natural disaster or the unexpected fluctuation of prices is the market, the federal government created a safety net in the Federal Crop Insurance Program. Unfortunately, it has been said that if a government program exists, someone is trying to defraud it; and that rings true in today’s fraud report.
According to the FayObserver.com, a man recently pleaded guilty to a series of charges (including conspiracy to make false statements, making false statements, committing mail fraud and wire fraud, and aiding and abetting the making of false statements in connection with the crop insurance program) in a case involving activities to defraud the Federal Crop Insurance Program. If convicted, he could receive up to 35 years in prison. (For 35 years, you would think this was really big money.) Sentencing is scheduled for April 16.
A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office provided more detail, noting that an “unnamed farmer devised the scheme to defraud the government and recruited” the man at the center of the story and others to “obtain crop insurance policies in their own names for certain crops, even though they did not engage in any farming.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office said they ran the scam from September 2006 to June 2010, putting together applications for crop insurance for tobacco and other crops, and “falsely declaring the crop to be their own.” They used “stolen names and identifying information” (Identity Fraud!) to execute contracts with tobacco companies. The “unnamed farmer sold his tobacco and other crops on contracts written in the names of other co-conspirators or unknowing victims” and he profited “by being paid twice for each pound of tobacco.” The man facing 35 years in prison, profited because he was paid for the use of his name on the contracts for crops he never grew. (Oops)
This is yet another example of how fraud occurs not just at the state and local level, but across all federal agencies and departments that try to support citizens. And it’s yet another reason why agencies – even those that dole out federal crop insurance – need strict investigative and preventive measures to not only catch fraud, but prevent it before it happens.