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California Farmer Indicted for False Crop Insurance Claims

00:00AM Jul 24, 2008

Pro Farmer Editors

A federal grand jury has returned a 15-count indictment yesterday charging Gregory Peter Torlai, Jr. of Stockton, California, with filing false claims for crop insurance benefits. This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the USDA, Office of the Inspector General, and USDA's Risk Management Agency–Special Investigations Branch.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Reardon, who is prosecuting the case, the indictment alleges that between 2001 and 2005, Torlai filed six claims for crop insurance benefits on property he owned in Lassen, San Joaquin, and Contra Costa Counties. In support of these claims, Torlai made false statements to entities participating in the federal crop insurance program about the extent of his ownership interest in various farming operations and the types and number of acres of crops planted.

In addition, the indictment alleges that Torlai submitted two falsified seed receipts in support of the claims he made. The false statements affected policies issued by reinsurance companies with which the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) contracts.

As a result of his false claims, Torlai received approximately $400,000 in crop insurance payments to which he was not entitled.

The FCIC is an agency of the USDA created by the Federal Crop Insurance Act (FCIA) for the purpose of providing government insurance against unavoidable crop losses.

The maximum penalty for the charges is 30 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, and a five-year term of supervised release. However, the actual sentence will be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines as well as federal sentencing statutes, which take into account a number of factors, and will be imposed at the discretion of the court. The charges are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.