In ‘Crime Of Greed,’ Kentucky Farmer Sent To Prison For Insurance Fraud
Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
A Central Kentucky farmer who received millions of dollars through fraud in crop insurance has been sentenced to four years and eight months in federal prison.
Earl Lee Planck Jr., 62, of Carlisle, also forfeited $650,042 and his interest in hundreds of acres of land to the government, and will owe restitution.
Planck was among more than 20 people charged in an investigation of crop-insurance fraud in Central Kentucky, including farmers, insurance agents and adjusters and the owner of a tobacco warehouse in Mount Sterling.
Planck, who said he raised tobacco, corn and other crops in Nicholas, Bath, Bourbon, Clark, Fleming, Mason and Montgomery counties, took out insurance on the crops through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a private company, then faked loss claims, according to the court records.
Planck took out policies in the names of other people and filed claims that lied about his tobacco production and losses.
With the help of an insurance agent and adjusters, he also took out policies on wooded land that could not be farmed and turned in loss claims.
Planck received a total of $3.2 million through federal crop insurance and $2.8 million from private crop insurance, and helped other farmers and family members pursue their own fraudulent claims worth several million more, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV.
Prosecutors said they could prove Planck took part in a total loss of more than $9 million.
"This was a brazen and wide-ranging scheme that cost the taxpayers and private insurers millions of dollars," Shier said.
Planck pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the government, insurance fraud and tax evasion. He under-reported his income by a total of more than $1.8 million from 2013 through 2015.
Planck's attorney, Kent Wicker, sought a sentence of one year and one day for him, saying he had worked hard to provide for his family, been a good neighbor and volunteered his time, employees and equipment to build youth sports fields.
But prosecutors argued otherwise, saying Planck recruited his neighbors to take part in fraud and used his children to further fake claims, resulting in charges against some of them.
"This is a crime of greed," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathryn M. Anderson and Erin Roth said in a sentencing memorandum. "Crop insurance fraud in Central Kentucky has been a severe and pervasive scourge on a program designed to benefit the very people who are taking advantage of it, with Planck serving as its most prolific offender."
U.S. District Judge Karen K. Caldwell sentenced Planck Dec. 17 in federal court in Lexington.
Others convicted in the investigation include Roger Wilson, who owned Clay's Tobacco Warehouse and provided fake paperwork to Planck and others to aid in fraudulent claims, and Michael McNew, an insurance agent who helped make the fraud possible.
More than three dozen people have pleaded guilty to criminal charges or resolved fraud accusations through civil agreements as a result of the investigation of crop-insurance fraud in Central Kentucky, according to court records
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