Insurance adjuster guilty in $21M scheme [The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.]

By Corey Friedman, The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 21--A Wilson crop insurance adjuster will spend four years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in relation to a $21 million insurance fraud scheme.

Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced 61-year-old Jimmy Thomas Sasser on Wednesday in a Raleigh federal courtroom. Prosecutors said Sasser took payoffs from tobacco farmers to submit false claims to his employer, Rural Community Insurance Services.

Sasser was ordered to pay $21,045,917 in restitution. He made the fraudulent claims from 1996 to 2007, according to Thomas G. Walker, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

"Today's sentence reflects the harm committed on our community as a result of this massive, multi-million-dollar fraud scheme and should serve as a deterrent for adjusters who are contemplating taking payoffs to help farmers and agents file false claims," Walker said in a Wednesday statement.

Sasser submitted fraudulent loss claims on behalf of local tobacco farmers and shared the money with farmers and insurance agents, federal prosecutors said.

Authorities accused Sasser of lying to federal and state investigators about receiving money from Robert Carl Stokes, a Wilson insurance agent who previously pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges. They say he also threatened to harm a co-defendant who was cooperating with prosecutors.

Sasser pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy, wire fraud and retaliation charges on Feb. 21

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General and Risk Management Agency and the Internal Revenue Service investigated the insurance fraud scheme.

"Adjusters play an important role when adjusting claims for producers," Special Agent-in-Charge Karen Citizen-Wilcox of the USDA's inspector-general's office said in a statement. "The sentencing of an insurance adjuster in this case should serve as a strong deterrent to those who choose to commit fraud against the federal crop insurance program and will help protect the integrity of this program by ensuring that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded."

Sasser also was sentenced to three years of federal probation after his four-year prison sentence ends.

The sentence reflected a reduction for Sasser's cooperation in the ongoing investigation, officials said.

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