Sentence upheld in crop-insurance scam

June 13, 2006 | Roger McEowen


A federal jury found the defendant guilty of conspiring to defraud the government and making false statements to the government in relation to his involvement in a crop insurance scam. The defendant worked at a grain elevator and purchased durum wheat from farmers at a discounted price. He then gave the farmers false documentation reflecting more than the actual damage to the wheat. That enabled the farmers to get larger crop insurance indemnity and disaster payments under federal farm programs. The defendant later sold the wheat at a non-discounted price. The trial court sentenced the defendant to 47 months in prison and three years of supervised release, as well as over $750,000 in restitution. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the restitution amount should have been offset by the amount farmers paid in insurance premiums to receive the crop insurance. The court disagreed, noting that the restitution amount was pegged to the difference between the proper and fraudulent benefit payments.  The defendant also claimed that his sentence was too tough. That claim failed too. The trial court, in setting the sentence, noted that the defendant had breached a position of trust and could not show that he would have received a more lenient sentence if it weren’t for the mandatory sentencing guidelines that went into effect a few years ago. United States v. Kirsch, No. 03-3696, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 14710 (8th Cir. Jun. 13, 2006).