WI farmer sentenced to prison for crop insurance fraud

Colleen Kottke, Editor

MILWAUKEE - A Waushara County farmer who submitted over $246,606 in fraudulent insurance claim in 2011 is going to prison.

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Gregory J. Haanstad said that Jeffrey Lewke, 39, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for making a fraudulent insurance claim. Upon his release, Lewke will serve an additional six months of home confinement. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $23,799.44 in restitution to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), provides insurance to farmers for unavoidable crop losses. The FCIC provides insurance by reinsuring private crop insurance companies for losses claimed by their policy holders.

Lewke told investigators that during the 2011 crop season, he falsely represented that he irrigated 120 acres of land in Waushara County more times than he actually did. By doing so, he attempted to fraudulently obtain a nearly $63,000 insurance claim.

In total, Lewke acknowledged that he submitted $246,606.53 worth of fraudulent insurance claims during the 2011 crop season.

The Waushara County farmer also admitted that he attempted to fraudulently obtain additional monies through other false crop insurance claims in 2011.

According to court records, Lewke falsely claimed that he was prevented from planting a number of properties due to excessive moisture, when in fact, he never attempted to plant some of those properties. USDA officials discovered that some of those properties were already planted with corn, and in one instance, the property was actually a horse pasture.

In addition, Lewke fraudulently “shifted” his production by claiming that he produced corn in Dodge County, when in fact he produced the corn in Clark County. By so doing, he falsely claimed that he was entitled to another $70,000 of insurance payments for a loss in Clark County.

At Lewke’s sentencing hearing, District Judge Pamela Pepper described the federal crop insurance program at as a “safety net” for farmers in need, from which Lewke stole while he was enjoying the financial success of farming over 12,000 acres in Wisconsin during the 2011 crop season.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Keith S. Alexander