Wisconsin Farmer Charged with Crop Insurance Fraud
United States Attorney James L. Santelle of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced today that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Jeffrey Lewke (age: 37) of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin with nine counts of crop insurance fraud. Mr. Lewke operated a large farming operation, farming as many as 12,000 acres in Wisconsin during 2011 and 2012.
The United States Department of Agriculture (“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.
According to the indictment, from 2009 through 2013, Lewke knowingly devised and executed a scheme to defraud a crop insurance company that was reinsured by the FCIC in a number of ways,including the following:
a. falsely representing that he was prevented from planting corn due to excessive moisture on land that was actually planted with corn, land that he did own or lease, land that established waterways, and land that was fenced-off for livestock;
b. falsely representing that he irrigated land more times than he actually did;
c. falsely representing that he sold damaged crops to a third party by submitting a receipt of a cancelled transaction to the crop insurance company;
d. falsely representing the county from which he harvested corn so as to increase his insurance claim; and
e. falsely underreporting his crop production so as to increase his insurance claim.
Counts One through Three of the indictment charge Mr. Lewke for using interstate wires in the execution of his scheme to defraud. Each count carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years of supervised release. Counts Four through Nine of the indictment charge Mr. Lewke for making false statements with the purpose of influencing a crop insurance company that was reinsured by the FCIC. Each count carries a maximum of 30 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, and 5 years of supervised release.
Mr. Lewke was charged after a long-term investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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