RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Federal authorities in North Carolina have unraveled a massive criminal conspiracy they say defrauded $100 million from the government-backed program that insures farmers against crop losses.
Prosecutors say the scheme is the largest of its kind uncovered in the country: 41 insurance agents, claims adjusters, crop brokers and farmers have pleaded guilty or reached plea agreements so far. The defendants have been sentenced to pay $43 million in fines and restitution, as well as years in prison.
The ring filed false insurance claims for weather-related loses of tobacco, soybeans, wheat and corn. Often, the crops weren't damaged at all, with farmers later selling their written-off harvests under false aliases.
Prosecutors say those abusing the system make it harder on honest farmers by increasing the cost of insurance premiums.