LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A Minnesota farmer who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. could receive probation and continue to pay restitution, as the U.S. attorney's office and the attorney for Kevan Jon Nelson appear to agree based on pre-sentencing memorandums filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota this week.
Nelson is set for sentencing on March 24, as the U.S. Department of Justice already has agreed to not seek the maximum penalty.
U.S. attorneys told the court in a memo Thursday that although the nature of Nelson's crime may call for a two-year prison sentence, Nelson has cooperated every step of the way.
"The defendant committed a crime that is all too difficult to detect and must be deterred for the government to be able to support programs like the one he defrauded," the U.S. attorneys said.
"However, Mr. Nelson did seek to atone for his behavior by promptly pleading guilty and paying restitution. While a guidelines sentence would not be unreasonable here, the United States acknowledges that multiple mitigating factors, especially when compared to similar offenders, permit the court wide discretion as the defendant argues."
The U.S. attorneys said Nelson's punishment should include some "custodial component" such as home confinement as a condition of probation.
As part of a plea agreement, Nelson is required to pay restitution to the FCIC on a charge that could carry up to 30 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines. He could face 21 to 27 months in prison and pay fines ranging from $10,000 and $95,000, according to a plea agreement reached.
In addition, Nelson has agreed to forfeit eligibility for any federal program administered, authorized or funded by USDA, including by the Risk Management Agency, the FCIC and the Farm Service Agency. The agreement also shields Nelson's sons, Jacob and Ryan, from prosecution that could arise as part of the investigation.
As part of the presentencing, Nelson's attorney provided the court more than 30 emails and letters from friends and family in support of his character.
According to Nelson's memorandum, the 68-year-old farmer has several health conditions that could be further complicated with imprisonment.
"Aside from this offense, Mr. Nelson has developed a reputation in his community for being kind, generous, caring, and helpful," the memo said.
"Over 30 individuals have written letters in support of his character for his sentencing hearing. They describe a variety of instances where Mr. Nelson demonstrated generosity and a sincere concern for others, including instances where he supported local service groups, cared for others in times of hardship, cleared snow for friends and family, donated to local businesses and schools, pulled others' cars out of ditches, and even brought people donuts as a gift."
Nelson's attorney said he has paid $348,695 toward his total obligation of $548,695 in restitution.
In addition, Nelson's memo compared the sentencing of another Minnesota farmer recently as reason for Nelson to receive probation.
"This past year another farmer in Becker County defrauded the government by falsifying his grain haul and taking out fraudulent loans in the name of family members for grain that never actually existed," Nelson's memo said.
"The Becker County farmer defrauded the government of over $1.4 million. The individual was sentenced to pay $1.4 million in restitution and serve three years' probation."
In November 2021, Robert Waldon John Anderson, 67, also was ordered to serve 150 hours of community service for converting collateral that secured loans from the USDA. On May 6, 2021, Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of conversion of Commodity Credit Corp. security.
Nelson, a Lake Park, Minnesota, corn and soybean farmer, was charged in September 2021 after allegedly reporting false information to the FCIC in 2018.
According to court documents, in 2018 and 2019, Nelson "falsely reported losses in those years to obtain crop insurance payments to which he was not entitled, resulting in his receipt of $548,695 in fraudulent payments." As part of the plea agreement, Nelson is to repay the amount to the FCIC.
Nelson falsely certified to ARMtech Insurance Services that he was "entitled to $117,740 for corn and soybean crops lost to excess moisture in Becker and Clay counties, Minnesota, all in violation of title 18, United States Code, Section 1014," according to the agreement.
Read more on DTN:
"Minnesota Farmer To Be Sentenced on Insurance Fraud," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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