A crop insurance agent has been indicted for allegedly scamming taxpayers out of $169,000 by helping farmers inflate tobacco crop losses.
Debra Muse has been charged with one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and 27 counts of making false statements on crop insurance statements and reports.
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According to prosecutors, Muse helped tobacco farmers inflate their crop losses and collect insurance money, and then helped them sell their tobacco at market, as reported by the Lexington
Herald-Leader. Muse’s indictment seems to be the first since a federal investigation into crop insurance fraud was announced in December of 2015.
Prosecutors allege that the fraud is part of a conspiracy involving Kentucky tobacco farmers, crop insurance agents, crop insurance adjusters, owners and employees of tobacco warehouses and others, the Herald-Leader reported.
According to prosecutors, in late 2014 and early 2015 Muse caused insurance indemnity payments to be made to three growers. The phony claims were ultimately reimbursed by the Department of Agriculture, the Herald-Leader reported. In each case, prosecutors said that Muse “falsely inflated” the amount of losses the growers suffered.
“Co-conspiring farmers profited under the scheme because they were paid twice for each pound of tobacco: once through the false crop insurance claim, and also through the sale of the unreported hidden tobacco,” the indictment said.
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