Michigan Farmer Agrees To $1.2 Million Settlement To Resolve Allegations Of Federal Crop Insurance And Farm Benefit Program Fraud
Silveus Ins. Group, Inc. also agreed to a year-long monitoring period and CEO James Cameron Silveus agreed to a year-long exclusion from federal programs.
GRAND RAPIDS – Silveus Insurance Group, Inc., and its Chief Executive Officer, James Cameron Silveus, located in Warsaw, Indiana, have agreed to pay $500,000 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by causing the submission of fraudulent claims for federal crop insurance. The insurance agency also agreed to enter into a one-year monitoring period with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (“RMA”), while Mr. Silveus agreed to a voluntary exclusion from federal programs through March 1, 2023.
The United States contends that Mr. Silveus, through Silveus Insurance Group, served as the crop insurance agent for a Michigan crop farmer, Gaylord Lincoln, who farmed crops in Calhoun, Eaton, Ingham, and Jackson counties in Michigan. In December 2021, the United States filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging that Mr. Lincoln violated the False Claims Act by maintaining a scheme to fraudulently obtain more federal farm benefit program payments than he was entitled to receive. In the complaint, the United States alleges that Mr. Lincoln carried out this scheme by placing some of his farmlands and crops under the names of farmhands who served as “straw” farming operators, even though the farmland and crops really belonged to Mr. Lincoln. The United States also alleged that Mr. Lincoln arranged for the straw farming operators to fraudulently obtain federal crop insurance policies to which they were not entitled because they had no insurable interest in those crops.
Separate from the filed complaint, the United States contends that Mr. Silveus and Silveus Insurance Group, acting at the direction of Mr. Lincoln, obtained federal crop insurance policies for these straw farming operators, and that Mr. Silveus and Silveus Insurance Group caused the submission of false claims for the straw farming operators who had no insurable interest in the insured crops under their names. As a result of these false claims, the federal government, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, paid subsidy premiums and indemnities on these false policies, as well as administrative costs that were paid to Mr. Silveus and Silveus Insurance Group.
“The federal crop insurance program is designed to promote the national welfare by creating economic stability for farmers,” said United States Attorney Andrew B. Birge. “This system relies on producers and their insurance agents to submit truthful and complete information, and my office is committed to investigating any allegations of fraud on the federal crop insurance program.”
The resolution obtained in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency and Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Hull represented the United States.
The claims against Silveus Insurance Group and Mr. Silveus resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
Additionally, the case against Gaylord Lincoln is pending in federal court, see United States v. Lincoln, No. 1:21-cv-1089 (W.D. Mich.), and the claims made in the complaint are allegations that the United States must prove if the case proceeds to trial. There has been no determination of liability in that case.