Tristram J. Coffin, the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, stated that Lori Russell Atkins, 43, of Lincoln, Vermont, was sentenced on June 12, 2013 by Chief U.S. District Court Judge, Christina Reiss, to five years of probation for conspiring to defraud the United States. She was also ordered to pay restitution as follows: $98,451.39 to Farm Service Agency, $58,028.33 to the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation, $10,000 to Arthur Clifford of Starksboro, Vermont, and $9,525 to Eric Clifford, also of Starksboro, Vermont.
According to court records, in the spring of 2007, Lori Russell and her then husband, Miles Russell, applied for a $450,000 loan from Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation (“VACC”) as well as a $100,000 direct farm loan from Farm Service Agency (“FSA). FSA also guaranteed the loan to VACC. As security for the loans and guarantee, the Russells pledged their real estate as well as all their farm property, including equipment. The loan was closed on July 31, 2007. Unbeknownst to the lenders, the Russells made various false statements on the loan applications to FSA and VACC including representations that they were married when, in fact, they had been divorced for several months.
The very day after the loans were closed, Miles Russell sold farm equipment (that was
newly pledged to FSA) at auction. During the next six months, Miles Russell sold other pledged farm equipment, including a tractor, to Eric Clifford of Clifford Farms LLC. In September of 2007, Lori Russell sold a 13.5 acre woodlot to Arthur Clifford. Both the equipment and woodlot had been pledged to FSA and to VACC as security for the loans.
When no payments were made on the loans, the lenders foreclosed on the farm and sold the remaining real estate and the remaining equipment at auction. The woodlot and tractor sold to the Cliffords were also sold at auction, making the Cliffords victims as well.
Lori Russell was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 20, 2012 and first appeared before the U.S. District Court on October 12, 2012. She pled guilty to the indictment on January 31, 2013.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. Tristram J. Coffin, the United States Attorney, commends that agency for its work. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney, Nancy J. Creswell. Lori Russell Atkins was represented by Attorney Kurt Hughes of Murdoch Hughes & Twarog, PC.