Mar. 9–The former owner of a tobacco warehouse in Mount Sterling used his business to further a conspiracy to submit false crop-insurance claims, a federal grand jury has charged.
The grand jury also charged two more farmers in the investigation, which has led to indictments or convictions against more than 15 people in Central Kentucky and accusations of millions in fraudulent claims paid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or private insurance companies.
The latest indictments were against Roger Wilson, who once owned Clay’s Tobacco Warehouse, and farmers John D. Watkins and Kevin C. Watkins.
Wilson was indicted March 5 on one charge of conspiring to defraud the federal government and one charge of conspiring to launder money from the scheme.
Wilson allegedly helped Central Kentucky farmers conceal the amount of tobacco they grew and provided fake paperwork through his warehouse about damage to their crops, so that they could file fraudulent claims for insurance payments.
The money-laundering charge alleges he helped farmers conceal the bogus payments.
The conspiracy included conduct in Bath, Bourbon, Clark, Fleming, Mason, Montgomery and Nicholas counties, the indictment said.
The most serious charge against Wilson has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The charges are related to a recent indictment against Earl Lee Planck Jr., R. Chad Price and Jesse G. Smith, according to a court document.
In that case, the government wants to take 1,300 acres of land and $575,000 for alleged crimes including filing fraudulent insurance claims and evading taxes.
Mary Trotman, a special agent with the FBI, said in a 2016 affidavit that Planck received insurance payments totaling $1.52 million from 1994 through 2014.
In some cases, Planck filed claims for damage to tobacco crops he said he grew on a piece of land that was actually steep and heavily wooded, which investigators said was not capable of being used for crops, Trotman said…Read more>>