Dallas, TX (Mar 8, 2001) - United States Attorney
Richard H. Stephens announced today that Darren Randell Jeffrey,
age 36, of McCaulley, Texas, pled guilty today in Lubbock, Texas,
before U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings, to charges he made
and presented false claims to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Federal Crop Insurance Corporation and Risk Management Agency.
Darren Randell Jeffrey was employed as a crop loss adjuster for
Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. Specifically, Jeffrey pled
guilty to charges that he falsified appraisals used to support
more than $700,000 of fraudulent crop insurance loss claims filed
in 1999 by Nolan County, Texas farmers/producers for cotton and
grain sorghum. These fraudulent claims were subsequently paid
and reimbursed under the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation's
crop insurance program. Thereafter, the falsified appraisals
supported subsequent claims filed by the same Nolan County producers
to crop disaster program payments totaling more than $350,000.
Today's guilty plea stems from an extensive federal grand jury
investigation led by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General. Court
records reflected that Jeffrey falsified numerous appraisals for
six separate Nolan County producers. All six producers obtained
their crop insurance through the Hargrove Insurance Company of
Sweetwater, Texas, which insured them through Fireman's Fund Insurance
Company. All producers submitted their initial crop insurance
loss claims through Fireman's Fund's loss claim office located
in the same building and adjacent to Hargrove Insurance. Once
Fireman's Fund paid the fraudulent claims, it was reimbursed through
a reinsurance program offered by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation,
which program was administered by the Risk Management Agency.
Fireman's Fund sent the indemnity checks to Hargrove Insurance
for distribution to the Nolan County producers.
As a result of today's guilty plea, Jeffrey could be imprisoned
up to five years and fined up to $250,000.00. A sentencing date
has not yet been set by the Court.
U.S. Attorney Stephens praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
Office of Inspector General for its thorough work in the case,
which included conducting numerous interviews with Nolan County
producers and individuals involved in the cotton and grain sorghum
Stephens also thanked the many Nolan County producers who cooperated
with authorities in this investigation by engaging in candid interviews
about fellow Nolan County producers and by not turning a "blind
eye" to this widespread scheme to defraud. "Schemes
like this have become more prevalent. We need people like the
many Nolan County farmers who cooperated with us to identify those
who would take advantage of the system."
Stephens noted that this investigation will continue and that
he expects additional convictions.
The Dallas office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office
of Inspector General investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney
Bill Mateja, of the Lubbock, Texas division of the United States
Attorney's Office, is prosecuting the case.