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Unicoi resident gets 20 months in ag fraud case

April 25th, 2014 11:00 pm by Matthew Lane

Unicoi resident gets 20 months in ag fraud case

GREENEVILLE — A Unicoi woman involved in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture of $178,000 through false crop insurance claims has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.

Glenn Martin Jr. of Limestone, his ex-wife Janet Garland of Unicoi, and her brother Joseph Matchett, of Washington County, were indicted in November 2012, charged with conspiracy and submitting false crop insurance claims. Martin also faced a charge of concealing assets during bankruptcy.

All three agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge and Martin also agreed to plead guilty to the concealing assets charge.

The final member of the trio to be sentenced was Garland, back in February. She received a 20-month prison sentence and (along with Martin and Matchett) ordered to pay $178,515 in restitution to the USDA.

Martin -- the ringleader of the group - received a 51-month prison sentence in February as well, and was also ordered to pay $710,000 in restitution to the U.S. Bankruptcy trustee. In August, Matchett received four years probation for his role in the scheme.

According to court records, Martin arranged for Garland and Matchett to become tobacco producers in 2009 and agreed to finance all of the farm's expenses, including obtaining crop loss insurance through the Rural Community Insurance Service. Crop loss insurance is provided for under federal law and is meant to cover crop losses due to drought, flood or other natural disaster.

From March 2009 through April 2010, the three defendants made false statements and reports to the RCIS for losses that were not eligible for crop insurance.

Under the direction of Martin and Garland, Matchett applied for and received crop loss insurance on 73 acres of land in Washington County, falsely claiming he was the tobacco farmer on the property.

Matchett then submitted a report with the RCIS claiming he had planted tobacco at the Tipton, Clinic, Gary Stout and Mitchell farms, when he had not. In October 2009, Matchett filed paperwork claiming the crop was destroyed by severe weather.

In April 2010, the RCIS approved the claim and paid Matchett slightly more than $178,500. Over the course of a month, Martin and Garland paid Matchett $15,000 for his role in the scheme, in three increments of $5,000 each.

Since 1999, Martin has owed the United States more than $20 million in civil federal tobacco penalties. That judgment is a result of Martin concealing ownership of and participation in tobacco production in an attempt to evade federal income taxes.

To avoid payment of that debt and to continue earning income from farming, prosecutors say Martin arranged for his businesses to be operated in the names of other people, specifically Matchett.

Martin attempted to have the tobacco penalties removed by filing for bankruptcy in 1999, but in 2001 the bankruptcy court ruled the penalties were exempt. In 2008, the United States seized Martin's assets in order to collect on the debt, but Martin filed for bankruptcy again in an attempt to stop the proceedings. During the bankruptcy proceedings, prosecutors say Martin fraudulently collected $700,000.

Court records state Martin was deposed in an adversary proceeding in his bankruptcy case and falsely denied the scheme to defraud the U.S. government with the false crop loss insurance.

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