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Two sentenced in massive crop-insurance fraud case

Posted January 14, 2011

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— Two men were sentenced Thursday and an accused ringleader will soon face sentencing for their roles in a crop-insurance fraud and money-laundering scheme that cost the federal government millions of dollars.

Twenty-one people have been charged in the scheme, in which farmers hid actual crop production and then filed false insurance claims to collect losses from the government, according to court papers.

Mark Davis Pridgen, 62, of Wilson, was sentenced to 1½ years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

He was also ordered to pay restitution, including more than $10 million to the United States Department of Agriculture, $188,0014 to the Rural Community Insurance Company and $13,007 to the American Agri-Business Insurance Company.

He pled guilty in October 2009 to conspiring to make false statements, making material false statements, committing mail fraud and wire fraud, and conspiring to launder money.

Prosecutors said that Pridgen participated in the crop-insurance fraud scheme as a partner in the Beaufort Tobacco Company and officer with the Tobacco Insurance Agency Inc. in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

He also made $647,000 selling crop insurance through the Halmart Agency between 2003 and 2006, but the policies weren't valid, because he hadn't had a valid insurance license since 1991, prosecutors said.

Roy Johnson Raynor, 56, of Rocky Mount, was sentenced to a year in prison, a year under house arrest and a year on supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

He pled guilty last July to making false statements, making material false statements and committing mail and wire fraud.

Prosecutors said that Raynor took part in the crop-insurance fraud scheme as the owner of Raynor Warehouse Inc. and Raynor Seed Company between September 2005 and March 2009. Over a two-year period, he made out 130 checks totaling $1,451,084 under false names or to co-conspirators.

Both Pridgen and Raynor received reduced sentences because of their cooperation with the extensive investigation, prosecutors said.

The accused ringleader of the scheme is Wilson insurance agent Robert "Carl" Stokes, who owned Hallmart Agency Inc.

Federal agents have said that Stokes posted some of the highest numbers for crop losses among insurance agents across the country, and an undercover sting operation determined that some of his business dealings were fraudulent.

Part of the conspiracy was selling tobacco under other people's names to conceal the actual farmers’ true tobacco production totals. People received money in exchange for the use of their names as the actual grower, facilitating false federal crop insurance claims by the actual farmers, authorities said.

Others who have pled guilty to various charges in the case include Kenneth Kelly, Roland McCoy Jr., Joseph Edward Williams, of Zebulon, Robert Veasey, of Durham, David Harrison, of Snow Hill, William Earl Dawson, of Statonsburg, Robert Lemuel Dawson, of Statonsburg, Travis E. Wilson, of Cove City, Dennis Hawley, of Wilson, and Fernan Sanchez, of Warsaw.

11 Comments

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  • chevybelair57sd Jan 14, 2011

    This is the tip of the ice burg but I'm always glad to see the government actually caught some folks defrauding us, wish they'd get busy investigating welfare fraud.

  • farrell nightrider Jan 14, 2011

    Where is their pictures??? If this was a black person, his picture will be all over the news and 300 hundred comments posted. But white men steal all the time and you blamed the govt for being easy to steal from. A child is smaller than an adult but that dont mean you go around beating them up. Stand up as men and admit you are some evil people.

  • CWILLIAMS1639 Jan 14, 2011

    New motto to teach our children "who ever tells it get less time" remember that kids when the feds come knocking... seriously the ring leader gets less time cause he was smart enough to rat everyone else out first. Makes no sense.

  • La_Grange_Dude Jan 14, 2011

    I know another late farmer who would always have us do work for him each year right before his crop insuranceman would come by to pay him off.

  • ProudBlackSingleMother Jan 14, 2011

    Why was it all men involved in this? I suspect that there are some wives that were used as shelters to hide ill-gotten gains.

    Some of these wives need to be imprisoned too.

  • calculatedrisk Jan 14, 2011

    One scam after another, it comes right out of our pockets. Good job investigators!

  • Inter Alios Jan 14, 2011

    Millions of dollars swindelled= 1 yr in prison: some crackhead with 5 grams=minimum 10 years. Something bad wrong with this picture.

  • oleguy Jan 14, 2011

    And we want the Govt. in charge of our medical care, Sure these guys are guilty and they need to be punished,,
    But Govt. controled programs are easy to steal from.

  • caryzoo Jan 14, 2011

    Good news. People like this cost everyone money.

  • mikeyj Jan 14, 2011

    I'll just shut up with a GR8 JOB by investigators.

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