A LaGrange farmer has been sentenced to federal prison for crop insurance fraud, fraudulent federal disaster claims, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced James Truman Wiggins Jr., 68, for 25 months in prison, on May 30, which will be followed by five years of supervised release.
Wiggins has been ordered to pay $5,669,891 in restitution and is barred from participating in any federal crop insurance program for five years, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The court also ordered forfeiture in the amount of $5,600,433.
"Put very simply, this defendant stole more than $5 million from the taxpayers of this state and this country," said U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. "This type of crime is what undermines the solvency of our federal programs and deprives those who need the funds of that support."
According to the attorney's office, Wiggins and other unnamed conspirators filed false federal crop insurance claims and federal crop disaster relief claims. They structured their transactions to evade reporting requirements and worked to conceal their fraudulent activity.
Wiggins and the conspirators owned and rented farmland in Lenoir, Wayne and Greene counties, and produced crops, including tobacco, corn, wheat and soybeans. Wiggins created a fictitious entity and fabricated sale bills, and submitted those records to his insurance company in order to obtain better coverage for his crops.
From 2007 to 2011, Wiggins and his conspirators filed false claims in excess of $5.6 million.
Court records show that the conspirators profited under the scheme because they were paid twice for each pound of tobacco and bushel of grain.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"Today's sentencing is a direct result of the excellent partnership the IRS, USDA and the U.S. Attorney's Office has in combating violations of federal law," Higdon said.
The charges stem from the ongoing, multi-target crop insurance fraud investigation in the Eastern District of North Carolina. To date, the office has prosecuted 48 other farmers, agents and adjusters for similar criminal conduct.