Safety Net

36419152 - judge looking the condemned prisoner in the court room

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a safety net for farmers who experience unavoidable crop losses through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). Farmers, ranchers and others can purchase crop insurance through the FCIC to protect themselves against the loss of their crops due to natural disasters. Today’s fraudster is a Wisconsin farmer who committed disaster fraud by submitting more than $246,000 in fraudulent insurance claims.

The FCIC provides insurance by reinsuring private crop insurance companies for losses claimed by policy holders. Eligible events that could qualify for insurance reimbursement include disasters caused by hail, drought, floods, or the loss or revenue due to the decline of agricultural commodity prices.

According to federal court documents, today’s defrauding farmer misrepresented the number of times he irrigated a corn field while making an insurance claim for an underperforming yield. He falsely claimed that he irrigated 120 acres of land three times, but he only did so once. (That wasn’t the only bogus claim he made.)

The farmer also claimed he was unable to plant on multiple properties where he was already growing corn or using the pasture to graze horses. He also fraudulently claimed he was producing corn in one county, when he was actually producing it in another county. (He claimed he was entitled to another $70,000 of insurance payments for a loss in one of the counties.)

At the 39-year-old farmer’s sentencing hearing, the judge described the Federal Crop Insurance Program as a “safety net” for farmers in need. (Not a jackpot for a greedy fraudster.) He was sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to serve an additional six months of home confinement. He must also pay a $2,000 fine and $23,799.44 in restitution to the USDA.

In all, the Wisconsin farmer submitted $246,606.53 in fraudulent insurance claims during one crop season. (It’s important to note that he was simultaneously enjoying financial success by farming more than 12,000 acres.) Unfortunately, this criminal lost his balance while walking a fraudulent tight rope. It looks like there is no safety net for him now that his lies have been exposed.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a Department of Justice press release entitled, Wisconsin Farmer Sentenced to Federal Prison for Crop Insurance Fraud,” released on May 3, 2017.

Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on April 27, 2017, Jeffrey Lewke (age: 39) was sentenced to six months in federal prison for a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, making a false statement within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United States. In addition to the prison term, Lewke was ordered to serve an additional 6 months of home confinement, pay a $2,000 fine, and pay $23,799.44 in restitution to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), provides insurance to farmers for unavoidable crop losses. The FCIC provides insurance by reinsuring private crop insurance companies for losses claimed by their policy holders.