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South Ga. farmers to pay up to $675k in False Claims Act suit

POSTED: June 15, 2017 12:40 p.m.

Bacon County farmers Julian Rigby, Jasper Allen and Benjamin Swain, as well as several entities owned by Rigby, agreed recently to pay up to $675,000 to resolve allegations that they violated and conspired to violate the False Claims Act. 

This settlement is the first False Claims Act recovery involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop insurance program in the history of the Southern District of Georgia.

This settlement resulted from an investigation initiated by the USDA. On July 1, 2016, the United States filed an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia captioned United States of America v. Julian Rigby, et al., 5:16-CV-53. 

In its complaint, the United States contended that Rigby, Allen and Swain misrepresented and conspired to misrepresent the individuals who had an insured interest in an attempt to obtain more favorable coverage. The United States also alleged that, after filing a claim for losses they supposedly suffered, Rigby, Allen and Swain submitted and conspired to submit false and fraudulent documents to the USDA to ensure payment. 

“The federal crop insurance program serves an important role supporting farmers who suffer crop losses due to natural disasters,” Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Durham said. “This United States Attorney’s Office will root out anyone who seeks to manipulate the crop insurance program for personal gain.”

“Today’s announcement shows how, working alongside our partners in the Department of Justice, we will ensure the integrity of the crop insurance program for American taxpayers and producers alike,” said Heather Manzano, acting administrator for USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only – there has been no determination of liability. The case was investigated by USDA- Risk Management Agency Investigator Randy Upton, special agents Andrew Ridgeway and Robin Wilcox of USDA-Office of the Inspector General and law clerk Alison Slagowitz of the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Georgia.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Thomas Clarkson.  

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